A message to the Lancaster County Commissioners…thank you for not raising property taxes! Thank you for finding efficiencies and creative solutions to the budgetary challenges we have all faced in preparation for this next fiscal year.
As you know, the city raised property taxes 10% and increased the wheel tax 37%. So the news from the County Commissioners is enthusiastically received.
I applaud the 12 county departments that listened to the County Board’s call for fiscal conservatism and came in at 97 percent of last year’s budget. We need more of this kind of effort from county government leadership.
The Board has eliminated PEHP, which freed up $300,000. The Board has also allocated $1.5 million from the KENO fund for property tax relief. While LIBA is supportive of using KENO funds to buy time in this economy, we urge this Board to be cautious with the use of one-time funds and develop a plan so that there is not a $1.5 million gap next year. Below are a few suggestions as to how this Board may be able to find additional savings for next year.
SUGGESTIONS FOR SAVINGS
We recognize that the county is responsible for many recent privatization success stories, including the privatization of medical care for inmates. We encourage you to think of additional ways to implement these kinds of cost savings.
Lincoln Electric System stopped using the IS mainframe system this May to better contain their own costs. Since LES is no longer using IS they should have less workload to manage. With less workload, you would think fewer employees would lead to lower costs, but it has not.
LES saved $351,000 this year after moving away from the City IS. We encourage you to do an RFP to see if there are similar savings to the county.
It is time to ready the legislation necessary to reduce the county’s retirement contribution to a generous 100% match. This would save the county millions of dollars in the long run.
Increase Hours to Qualify for Benefits.
Consider increasing the number of hours an employee works to qualify for benefits from 20 hours to 30 hours.
Continue to seek inter-local agreements when it is cost efficient to have such agreements.
We encourage you to tighten the application rules for General Assistance like the Federal government and the State of Nebraska did with the Medicaid five-year resident requirements. We are aware that expenditures have increased as a result of the recession and changes to Medicaid; however, the county cannot absorb the cost of “additional activity” to General Assistance that will inevitably result from such changes.
It is an opportune time to take advantage of unusually low interest rates by refinancing each line item of debt service paid by the county.
We again thank you for working diligently this year to find alternatives to a property tax levy increase and encourage you to continue looking at ways to save taxpayer money.
If you are not a member of LIBA we would like to add your voice to our organization. Business memberships are under $250 a year and individuals who believe in a conservative approach to government are also encouraged to join for only $100. 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.
by Coby Mach, President & CEO
Lincoln Independent Business Association (LIBA)