City Budget Concerns
Last week LIBA appeared before the Lincoln City Council to weigh-in on the city budget. Below are our remarks.
LIBA has three areas of concern about the city budget that we would like to highlight.
First, the additional spending:
- The City Council is proposing more spending than the Mayor’s proposed budget. Suddenly we are planning to spend nearly $5 million from the city cash reserves to fund, among other items, six new fire apparatus. Yes, we need new fire trucks and engines, but the budget already calls for the purchase of two new fire apparatus, five more were delivered just last year, and up to three more may be purchased with the surplus from the 911 sales tax. Do we need 16 new fire apparatus over a three-year period?
- Not only are most city departments receiving budget increases from the general fund, but they are also receiving additional funding from other sources. The Lincoln Parks and Recreation Department, for example, is getting more money from city reserves, keno funds, and fee increases on top of the over 5 percent general fund budget increase it is requesting over the biennium.
- The city is also discussing spending $650,000 a year, and $21 million over 14 years, on new water pipes for residences. Historically, this has been an expense handled by the homeowners themselves. Why are we now planning to use $21 million on water pipes for people’s homes when we have an urgent need for more repairs to other city infrastructure, like roads?
- In the past, LIBA has opposed additional spending requests from StarTran. However, this year we will not. We are cautiously optimistic that the 5% increase in ridership will continue to grow with the additional midday and evening service routes.
Second, we will address city salaries:
- According to the Journal Star, some Mayoral appointees received raises of up to 8 percent last year without the knowledge of City Council. The private sector is not handing out raises like the city staff are receiving. This city budget is littered with employees who are scheduled to receive double-digit percentage raises. Since April 2017, wages for private sector employees in the U.S. have increased on average by 2.9%, while the city is handing out 10, 15 and 20 percent raises.
- We have at least 44 city employees who will receive raises from 2017-2020 that are over $4,000. Of those 44, many are getting increases over $15,000. One Assistant Library Director is getting raises of $17,648 and will now make $94,000 a year. The Parks & Recreation Director, who was making $107,000, will see his salary balloon to $115,000 by the end of this budget. And one Executive Assistant will see their pay jump to $94,000 a year. How much does the average Lincolnite make? In 2016, the average was $29,370.
And third, is the lack of property tax relief:
- Since state law allows Keno funds to be used for property tax relief, we propose that you set aside any additional revenue beyond the $4.5 million annually that is being budgeted from Keno funds and put it toward lowering Lincoln property taxes. This formula would allow every agency to keep its current funding, while allowing for meaningful tax relief in the future.
- Finally, if you are not able to find a means to provide for property tax relief, you could lower property taxes during this budget by allocating $1 million per year from the city cash reserves. The City Finance Director stated during the City Council budget meeting on July 16, 2018 that the city would still be above the council’s mandated 20% reserve even after spending the proposed funds from city reserves.
LIBA studies and promotes these types of issues that are important to businesses and our community. If you have an interest in joining LIBA, please call me at (402) 466-3419. LIBA membership is not restricted to just businesses. We also have “individual” memberships for those who want to help influence our local government decisions.
For more information on LIBA, visit Liba.org.