Council Lowers Property Assessment 2 Per $100

March 01, 1992|By Erik Nelson

For the first time in Columbia's history, residents will be asked topay less for community services than they did the previous year.

The Columbia Council voted unanimously Thursday to lower the assessment, or lein, from its upper limit of 75cents per $100 of assessed property value to 73 cents. The 2-cent cut would mean a $730 charge instead of $750 for the owner of a home assessed at $200,000.

The council resisted efforts to go beyond the modest cut recommended by Columbia Association President Padraic Kennedy.

"This is clearly a new direction for the Columbia Association," said Council Chairman Charles A. Acquard of Kings Contrivance Village. "I think our work has just begun."

Acquard said he is planning to appoint a council subcommittee to examine making further cuts while preserving the level of service Columbia residents expect from the association.

The nine-member council set the new annual charge Thursday night afterpassing a $29.6 million operating budget and a $3.4 million capital budget for fiscal year 1993, which begins May 1.

In January, Kennedy proposed at $29.9 million operating budget and a $4.9 million capital budget.

A large contingent of Columbia residents showed up Feb. 5 to demand relief from increasing charges based on rising propertyvalues set by state assessors. Kennedy responded by recommending that the council adopt a 2-cent rate reduction and about $520,000 in operating budget cuts and $1.2 million in capital budget cuts.

The council made additional capital budget cuts of $282,000, including $165,000 for a new boardwalk and shoreline repairs along the Town Center lakefront and $75,000 from contingency funds. Council members also restored $26,000 of Kennedy's cuts, including $17,000 for sand trap renovations at Hobbit's Glen Golf Course.

The council doubled the association's $25,000 human services grant to the Columbia Foundation citing the recession's effect on Columbia's neediest.

John Hansen ofHarper's Choice Village stood alone in voting against both capital and operating budgets, saying that the council's cuts were not deep enough.

"I don't think they begin to address the request for rate reduction," he said. "The council was unwilling to address the kind of cuts the community wanted it to make -- the kind of cuts we may have to make."

Hansen asked for a halt to budget deliberations until association staff could formulate 5 percent cuts in all departments.

But other council members were satisfied with a more cautious approach.

"I don't want to see us slash now and then regret what we've done later," said council member Karen Kuecker of Owen Brown.

One item that never made it into the budget but had considerable support at the Feb. 5 hearing was $5.5 million proposed to build a replacementfor the Allview Golf Course, which was closed in 1985.

A motion to commit the money failed when the council split, 4-4, on the issue. Joseph Merke of Town Center abstained because the project would have adjoined his property.

Although council member Evelyn Richardson of Dorsey's Search said the golf course could quickly turn a profit, member Gail Bailey of Long Reach argured that the large expenditure would send a mixed message when the council is cutting deeply in other areas. Bailey said she had already received complaints about closing the Indoor Swim Center for the summer.

Council members argued strongly against making cuts in pathways, which Acquard argued are used by almost all association members.

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