Columbia, SC (WLTX) -- The City of Columbia is gearing up its budget process with a new approach.
Council Cameron Runyan says the city is working toward what is called a no increase, or flat budget. That means the city will work to operate on the same amount of money it did in the previous budget year. In this case that's about $124 million for the general fund.
Columbia's Finance, Audit and Budget committee has directed the city to focus on public safety needs.
Runyan says they are also exploring a fund balance policy which will give the city additional money to keep on hand for emergencies and onetime expenses.
"Families all over this city, all over this state and all over this country, in the past five years, have had to tighten their belt, had to learn how to live on the same amount of money and to be able to do the same thing to take care of their family as the previous year. All we're doing is we're asking the city to do the same. Let's really force ourselves to take a look at how we invest this money on behalf of taxpayers and areas that can be more efficient, effective and accountable to the taxpayers of this city," said Runyan.
The committee also discussed expanding the yellow shirts; otherwise know at The City Clean and Safe Team into The Vista.
Runyan says he will recommend $400,000 in funding go to the entertainment district so they can add six people to the area who will be on duty in the district until 3 a.m. He says they can act as ambassadors and bring an element of safety as well.
The increase will allow for the unit's expansion and allow The Vista to continue hosting its annual events.
The group also discussed the Columbia's efforts to become a no kill city when it comes to animal services. Runyan says that could happen in as little as 12 to 8 months if the city works aggressively.
According to Runyan, the city has been looking at ordinances that would help the process.
One that is already in the works would control the population of 'bully breeds' of dogs, like pit bulls.
Runyan says they could also consider an increase to the number of animals allowed to a pet owner from two to three.
He also says they would look to establishing partnerships with veterinarians and other pet service groups or companies to increase the number of pet owners licensing their animals. Runyan says that money could help generate recurring funding for the initiative.
The group will meet again in February.