Columbus Councilors question $5.9 million plan to replace city's aging vehicles

mowen@ledger-enquirer.comFebruary 1, 2012 

Some Columbus Councilors questioned a request Tuesday for a mid-year increase in spending to kick-start a long-range vehicle replacement plan that would address an aging city fleet.

During a council work session partially devoted to the proposed plan, which asks for about $5.9 million this year, councilors raised questions about funding sources and how cars are allocated.

Councilor Mike Baker questioned the city’s ability to come up with close to $6 million over the second half of the fiscal year.

“When we closed out our budget in June, I know it was tight and we used several million dollars from the reserve fund,” he said. “What puts us at the point now at mid-year to spend almost $6 million?”

Finance Director Pam Hodge, who was presenting the plan to council, said all the funding sources for the mid-year adjustment would not impact the city’s general fund. They come from sales tax proceeds that have been coming in higher than expected, and from surpluses in the city’s storm water and paving budgets.

Councilor Judy Thomas expressed concern that some Public Services vehicles might be replaced with Local Option Sales Tax funds designated for infrastructure.

“I am very concerned that we are dipping into the other Local Option Sales Tax infrastructure fund to pay for vehicles,” she said. “I think if you go back to the presentations we made to the public, we defined what infrastructure was. The definition was roads, buildings, those kinds of things. It was not vehicles.”

In addition to the $5.9 million requested this year, a “get well” plan was presented that would cost taxpayers $63.3 million over the next eight years.

Most city vehicles qualify for replacement after seven to 10 years and 100,000-120,000 miles. Heavy equipment will last about five years or 9,000 hours of use.

Currently, almost a third of the city’s fleet of 1,319 vehicles meets that criteria for replacement, according to Hodge’s presentation.

The “get well” plan calls for spending $6.84 million a year on vehicle replacement in each of the next eight years, except for fiscal year 2013, in which $10.92 million would be spent, and fiscal year 2019, in which $11.84 million would be spent.

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