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Columbia, South Carolina

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Budget Y
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Meetings Y
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Elected Officials Y
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Administrative Officials N
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Permits, zoning Y
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Audits Y
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Contracts P
Lobbying N
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Public Records P
Local Taxes P

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Transparency grading process

Columbia is the capital city in South Carolina. It is the largest city in the state. The population was 129,272 according to the 2010 census. Columbia is the county seat of Richland County, but a portion of the city extends into neighboring Lexington County. The city is the center of a metropolitan statistical area of 767,598, the largest within the state. The name Columbia was a poetic term for the Americas derived from Christopher Columbus. Located 13 miles (21 km) northwest of South Carolina's geographic center, Columbia is the primary city of the Midlands region of South Carolina, which comprises several counties in the central portion of the state. The city lies at the confluence of two rivers, the Saluda and the Broad, which merge at Columbia to form the Congaree River. named Columbia as one of America's 25 best places to retire, and U.S. News & World Report ranked the city sixth on its 2009 America's Best Affordable Places to Retire list.

Website evaluation

Main article: Evaluation of South Carolina city websites

Last rated on May 15, 2012.

The good

  • The Mayor and city council members' contact information is posted online.[1]
  • Budget documents are available.[2]
  • Building permit information and forms[3], as well as zoning information is available on the website.[4]
  • Meeting agendas[5]and minutes[6]are available.
  • Information on bids and proposals are available[7]
  • Audit reports are available.[8]
  • Public records forms are posted.[9]
  • Revenues are included within budget documents.[2]

The bad

  • Administrative employee contact details are not available.
  • Lobbying information is not posted.
  • There is no information on local taxes.
  • Contracts are not posted.
  • Contact details are not listed for a public records official.
  • Tax rates are not listed.


The City's revenue sources according to the FY 2012-2013 Budget Preparation document are as follows:[10]

Source Approved FY 2011-2012 Projection FY 2012-2013
General property tax $49,655,083 $49,655,083
Licenses and permits $27,107,600 $27,943,700
From other agencies $11,221,481 $11,134,041
Current service charges $9,045,837 $9,060,565
Fines & forfeitures $995,700 $880,000
Miscellaneous revenue $25,000 $25,000
Interest on investment $75,000 $50,000
Rents & sale of property $179,050 $219,050
Total revenue $98,304,751 $98,967,439


Expenditure category Approved FY 2011-2012 Projection FY 2012-2013
Budget $105,067,459 $104,942,210
Debt Service $5,419,343 $5,544,592
GASB 45 $3,714,452 $3,714,452
Reserve $1,000,000 $1,000,000
Total $115,201,254 $115,201,254

Public employees

Elected officials

The City is governed under the Council-Manager form of government. The Mayor and six members of the City Council are elected to staggered four year terms. Four members are elected from districts, while the Mayor and two Council members are elected at large. Together, the Mayor and the Council make policy and enact laws. Members are:[1]

Name Title District
Steve Benjamin Mayor At-large
Tameika Devine Councilwoman At-large
Daniel J. Rickenmann Councilman At-large
Sam Davis Councilman District 1
Brian DeQuincey Newman Councilman District 2
Dr. Belinda Gergel Councilwoman District 3
Leona Plaugh Councilwoman District 4

Administrative officials

The current Interim City Manager is Steven. A Gantt. He has served as interim City Manager since January 2009.[11]


A database maintained by The State newspaper, updated as of January 10, 2012, lists 14 City employees earning over $100,000. Employees earning over $100,000 are:[12]

Name Title Salary
Steven Gantt City Manager $175,000.01
Kenneth Gaines City Attorney $135,960.01
Smith Baker Senior Assistant City Manager $134,000.01
Robert Cooper Senior Assistant City Manager $132,022.18
Dana Turner Chief Administrative Judge $128,870.73
James Gambrell Director of Economic Development $117,934.88
Teresa Florence Assistant City Manager, Community & Neighborhoods $117,500.01
Melissa Smith Gentry Assistant City Manager, City Operations $117,500.01
Aubrey Jenkins Fire Chief $110,000.01
Randall Scott Police Chief $110,000.01
Deborah Livingston Director of Community Development $108,492.80
Joseph Jaco Director of Utilities and Engineering $106,320.70
William Ellis Finance Director $105,000.00
Leshia Utsey Public Relations Director $101,000.00


Employees are required to participate in the South Carolina Retirement System. Under this plan, employees contribute 6.5% of their salary to the retirement plan. That amount is matched by the city, plus an additional contribution amount for life insurance. Participation is also available in the South Carolina Deferred Compensation Program.[13][14]


The City does not provide information on taxpayer funded lobbying.


Projections for the FY 2012-2013 budget year show the City collecting $49,655,083 from its general property tax.[10]

2013 development deal

In June 2013, a new development deal was announced by Mayor Steve Benjamin that would contain an estimated $70 million proposal for infrastructure, two parking garages, and a minor league baseball stadium.[15] The deal was anticipated to have an estimated economic impact of $1.2 billion with the creation of 11,000 new jobs. Methods to pay for the project are subject to change, but several potential payment methods include a $30.2 million tax increment finance plan, a $28 million Meal Tax bond, and $24 million in general obligation bonds.[15]

There is reportedly $31.25 million committed for roads and utilities as part of the infrastructure plan, and a price tag of about $20 million for a minor league baseball stadium, and a roughly $20 million price tag for the two parking garages.[15]

Transparency & public records

A Freedom of Information Act request form can be found here.

Open meetings

Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin changed the City Council meeting times in October 2010 in order to make meetings more accessible to citizens, avoiding major church service hours and work hours.[16]

External links