Columbia $2.4M under budget for first quarter

Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin speaking Thursday.

COLUMBIA (WACH) -- Mayor Steve Benjamin and fellow Columbia City Council members held a press conference Thursday to announce what they say is the financial health of city government thus far this year.

Budget documents show the city's $107 million general fund wrapped up the first quarter $2.4 million under budget. The 2010-2011 fiscal year began in June.

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The general fund amounts for roughly a third of the city's total $259 million annual budget. That figure includes the city's water and sewer service in addition to parking fine revenue and other sources.

Thursday's announcement is a marked change from the financial problems city leaders faced just several years ago. City Council closed its books on the 2008-2009 fiscal year earlier this year with a $5.6 million general fund deficit. Current city manager Steve Gantt took over the job in the wake of those financial difficulties following the departure of then-city manager Charles Austin.

More than anyone else the dedicated, hard-working men and women here at the City of Columbia deserve the credit for this great news, Mayor Benjamin said. We put together a focused budget that set some clear priorities and our city employees exceeded our expectations this quarter. I couldn TMt be more proud.

Former mayoral candidate and councilman Kirman Finlay says while it's encouraging the city is under budget so far, the second and third quarters tend to be when the biggest strain on the budget takes place.

Benjamin says it's too early to tell if this good news will continue through the rest of the year, but says city staff will keep working to manage the budget efficiently.