Columbia City Council voted along the same lines that have been clear throughout the budgeting process as it narrowly gave first-reading approval Tuesday to water and sewage rate hikes, a utility fee increase and the proposed upcoming year’s budget.
Mayor Steve Benjamin, Councilwoman Tameika Isaac Devine and Councilmen Sam Davis and Brian DeQuincey Newman voted in favor of ordinances to raise water and sewage rates by about 9.5 percent, to increase utility franchise fees by 2 percent and to put in place the city’s proposed revenue and spending plan for the upcoming financial year, which begins July 1.
Councilwoman Leona Plaugh and Councilmen Cameron Runyan and Moe Baddourah, who have been at odds with the mayor over his budget proposals to raise fees and public safety spending while lowering property taxes, voted against the three ordinances.
Both Devine and Benjamin spoke of concerns over what they said has been misleading information spread to citizens throughout a budget process that has revealed personal conflicts among members.
“I think we can philosophically disagree on the budget. I’ve been on councils before where we’ve had split budget votes, and it’s not been personal,” Devine said. “We can have a debate about what you believe, whether the city’s going in the right direction. But it’s another thing, I think, when you try to incite people.”