Columbia Council looks for fat in CA's budget


The Columbia Council focused on ways to pare the Columbia Association's proposed $30.2 million operating budget for 1993-1994 during last night's work session.

But after 90 minutes of the expected two-hour session, council members had made no cuts.

The council turned down two proposals by Councilman Charles Ahalt that would have resulted in significant trims. Mr. Ahalt submitted a package of six specific cuts, almost half of them in personnel costs, that would trim $1.5 million from the proposed operating budget.

He argued that those cuts should be made so the savings could be used to help balance out a proposed $3.7 million debt service payment.

The proposals included trimming:

* $560,000 in the membership services department.

* $75,000 in Columbia-wide grants.

* $100,000 in personnel costs in the open space management division.

* $100,000 in personnel costs at the Hobbit's Glen Golf Course.

* $500,000 by holding all personnel expenses at current levels.

* The rest of the savings would come from removing non-Columbia organizations from headquarters and use the space for CA's service center, now in the Mall in Columbia.

The $500,000 personnel-reduction proposal was defeated by the council.

Council member Karen Kuecker, who works in the county government's personnel office, argued strongly against the proposal.

She contended that the proposal would require the council to either lay off workers or not grant any merit or other raises.

"I've been in the position where raises weren't granted, and I know what it does to staff morale," said Ms. Kuecker. "In my opinion, CA staff have worked their butts off this year to boost membership and provide quality services. They all deserve raises."

The budget proposes that personnel costs rise about 5.1 percent to $9.7 million in the 1993-1994 fiscal year, which begins May 1. Merit raises of about 4 percent would be given under the proposal.

The council also defeated a proposal to trim $100,000 in personnel costs at the Hobbit's Glen Golf Course, Columbia's only golf facility.

He argued that the cut should be made because staffing at the facility must be more than is needed because CA staff members have argued that if a new 18-hole golf course is built, some staffing for the new facility could be covered by workers at Hobbit's Glen.

Rob Goldman, vice president of CA membership services, told the council that the new course, if approved, would share only managerial staff from Hobbit's Glen.

While Mr. Ahalt's proposal was defeated, other council members expressed interest in finding ways to trim costs or raise revenues at Hobbit's Glen.

The council decided it would revisit the issue at its next budget work session, scheduled for 8 p.m. Thursday. The council is scheduled to vote on a final budget March 1.

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