Subscribe for 33¢ / day
Vander Sanden

Vander Sanden

For some, the Christmas/holiday season isn’t “official” to them until the observance or occurrence of a particular event. It may be Thanksgiving, or Black Friday, or even the first snowfall that spurs the spirit of the season. For my time in local government, I generally can’t appreciate the holiday until “budget season” is complete.

On Tuesday, Dec. 5, this budget season is expected to be completed upon approval of the 2018 city budget. This will be the culmination of about five months of focus on how the city will operate next year. The key takeaways from the budget document include a mill rate decrease despite a levy increase, the continuation of some promotional and communication initiatives that the city has been developing, and the replacement of some needed equipment.

The 2018 city budget increases the tax levy by about 2.4 percent, but that doesn’t necessarily mean a tax increase to you as a property owner in Columbus. The mill rate, which determines your tax bill, is set for a considerable decrease (from $8.67 down to $8.03 per $1,000 of property value for the city portion, and overall mill rate decrease by $1.76, when all taxing entities are included (school district, Columbia County, MATC). Whether your tax bill is higher from last year or not is dependent upon your assessment, which was reset this year during the full city revaluation of property. The city’s increased value over last year helps spread out the levy more equitably.

So, where does all of this increased tax revenue go? In a continued commitment to fixing aging roads and utilities in Columbus, there will be another city street project in 2018. Residents who own property along S. Water (from E. James to E. School) and on E. School (from Ludington to Waterloo) have already been provided information on the coming project, which will see new pavement, including sidewalk, curb and gutter, new water and sewer mains and storm water improvements. The city project will accompany two more state DOT projects, which include the completion of work on James Street under the 151 interchange at 16/60, and a stretch of Business 151/73 (Park Avenue) to be resurfaced.

The other initiative that I am personally excited about and is more emphasized in the budget for next year is the focus on city promotion and communication. What this means is more content on the city’s cable access channel, the city website and other forms of social media to inform residents about what the city is up to, showing the region what we know (that Columbus is great) and increase the connection between your government and you. These efforts are already underway (did you check out my November column about Columbus “e-alerts?”) Hopefully you will be more informed and in-tune with the city at the end of 2018 than in the beginning.

A couple of parting notes in this, my final column for this year. Check out the city website, look for Facebook posts and note all of the holiday events set for this month: the Holiday Train – Dec. 3; a Night with Santa – Dec. 5; and the ongoing Winter Story Walk Downtown, running now in storefronts until January. And, be sure to shop local this season.

Whether you have hit your own official start of the season or not, I hope that when it hits you, it is magical. Perry Como sang it best, “There’s no place like home for the holidays…”

If you have any questions on this or any other issue before city government, please contact me down at City Hall at 623-5900 or via email at