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New Estimates Show Circuit Breaker Will Barely Affect Columbus

The Bartholomew County Auditor says the City of Columbus will only lose $14,000 next year from new property tax laws.

That’s far lower than the $2 million city officials have been assuming they would lose after two independent consultant tallied estimates last year.

“I find that hard to believe. I feel that that number we’re receiving is wrong. Now again I hope that I’m wrong,” said Columbus Mayor Fred Armstrong.

City department heads are writing their 2010 budget as if the number is true. Each city department will present a budget to the council that keeps spending at 2009 levels, except the police department, which will ask for one additional officer. Armstrong says if the financial picture changes, cuts will be made throughout the year to match revenues to expenses, including what could be layoffs of dozens of city employees.

He says the city has lost 58 employees since last year due retirements and staff cuts. Armstrong says the city has been estimated to lose $6 million in 2009 due to drops in property tax revenue. But he says department heads have tightened the city’s belt enough to prevent deficits this year.

“Now this year we’ve caught up. We’ve had a surplus. Last year I told department heads, just like I’m telling them this year, ‘Do not spend any money unless you absolutely have to because whatever money you save this year may save somebody else’s job next year,’” Armstrong said.

Armstrong says he’s confident the city will lose $2 million from losses associated with changes in its CAGIT tax.

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