Columbia is facing a $750 million court order from the EPA demanding our city fix its crumbling sewer system, and Mayor Steve Benjamin’s solution is a massive tax hike — not to fix our sewer system, but to grow spending at an unsustainable pace. Even worse, critical water and sewer funds will be raided to support this new spending.
The mayor will ask the City Council to support his flawed budget plan Tuesday; taxpayers need to hold onto their wallets and hold their council members accountable for this vote.
The mayor initially promised tax relief, but what we’re really getting is a $3.7 million net tax hike — property taxes would roll back $1 million while adding $4.7 million in new taxes on electricity (increasing the city’s franchise fee from 3 percent to 5 percent).
Columbia residents understand and appreciate the necessity of a water and sewer rate increase to fix our crumbling infrastructure. However, the mayor’s plan to raid $2.7 million of that rate increase for non-infrastructure spending is not understood or appreciated.
Council members Leona Plaugh and Moe Baddourah have stood up for taxpayers by supporting real tax relief and the protection of our water and sewer fund. Unfortunately, their responsible budgeting alternatives were all shot down by the mayor.
City Council has a choice to make: Prioritize our city’s infrastructure funding or raise taxes to pay for pet projects like a $37 million baseball stadium.