Mr. Schultz stated that as someone who is very experienced in running the program, what he sees this as doing is basically gutting the program. If that's what you want to do, then that is your decision. But he felt there would be a lot of phone calls from the general public, because he felt they support a good weed control program.
Mayor Wesely stated that we are obviously not intending to gut the program; we're just trying to save some money. Mr. Schultz stated that he understood that and noted that he would work with whatever he was given. He commented that up to now, the County has been kind of subsidizing what has been going on in the City. Between the City and County there needs to be some kind of agreement on how they want to operate. He noted that he would work within that agreement.
Ms. Campbell said that one of the things that Mr. Workman and she had discussed with the Mayor on this was the suggestion that the County doesn't want to go to war with the City over this, but it has become apparent that we are growing into very different programs and the needs are growing differently. Maybe what we need is to set down and look at the interlocal agreement and determine how we do allocate those percentages; what kind of program does the City feel that it needs and wants to have in place. We need to treat the weed-control, not as a sub-office, coming out through Public Works, but as a shared program and deal with this on an interlocal level. This would be a whole lot easier for the Mayor, because then the County could respond directly to what the City needs and what the City feels. She noted that the County has been where the City is this year in the budget situation....looking for every single dime that can be saved. On the other hand, she did feel that the interlocal agreement needs to be redone. She stated that the weed program needs to be made accountable directly to the Mayor and City Council, because it's really not a sub-department of Public Works.
WEED CONTROL - (continued) Mayor Wesely stated that this is an area that we have looked at very much. So, when we saw the big increase, we wondered what was going on and what changes could be made. Mr. Workman stated that Russ's suggestion that we shift more of the cost to the City might be and has been appropriate for quite a few years, but perhaps the request came too late this year. Maybe it would be apropos for the County to continue to pick up the major portion of the cost for this year with the promise from the City that they will sit down prior to next years budget and really look at the budget appropriations. Ms. Campbell agreed...noting that the City was looking at many budgeting concerns right now.
The Mayor stated that, in fairness, if we could find a way to get back to the current funding level...that would be helpful. It was noted that now the budget was down $15,000 from the current budget level. Ms. Campbell thought Russ should sit down & figure what was needed.
Mr. Camp asked if there was a direct response from Mr. Schultz. Mr. Schultz noted that between what Bob was saying and the Mayor was saying, he wondered how much the County was going to absorb, noting that something could be worked out. Ms. Seng stated that she would be agreeable to putting the $15,000 back now. She noted that the only time she had ever heard any complaints regarding weed control was when some low watering plants were growing in a residential area. She explained to the Mayor that she wanted to look at what the standards are because she felt they should be changed noting they were out-dated. She suggested that she would like to have Dick Campbell included in the discussions. Ms. Campbell thought with the whole attitude toward native plants changing, the standards should be re-considered. She wanted to come back in the fall, after the budget determinations to reconsider this.
Mr. Camp noted that it would be good at a future Commons meeting and that we could bring this up in the fall. Ms. Campbell stated that they had a draft and could certainly bring that forward.
Mayor Wesely stated that the relationship wasn't known very well when they began the Budget considerations. We need to put all the relationships on the table and make sure that any changes that occur within a relationship that has lasted over the time period that this one has, that all changes that are made are fair.
Ms. Campbell noted that the interlocals have been done periodically and it's usually when something comes up that triggers necessity for procedural changes. Mr. Workman asked that if we go with the old split, what would those amounts be? It was agreed to maintain the status quo for the Weed Control Budget.
Mr. Werner asked, in the future, if we could have a standard format for the budget process where we would show County expenses and revenues and so on. Ms. Campbell noted that they could certainly show the County's budget.
Mr. Svoboda mentioned the discrepancy between private and public weed notifications noting that many City and State properties are in violation. Mr. Schultz explained that they worked with the Agencies and the Parks & Rec Department, especially on the Public Right-of-Ways. All governmental bodies receive the same notice as the private sector does, with the same rules and regulations to follow. Mr. Schultz reported that he had given a list in the past to Council on the City Departments and agencies that are in non-compliance with the weed control laws. He noted that he could get that information to Council at any time. Mr. Svoboda thanked him for that.
Mayor Wesely stated that this is a serious problem and it was something that they didn't do for a while - putting maintenance of park lands and [inaudible] That is in the budget now, but it's also on this pending list as needing revenues. We put in money to try to maintain; it is unfortunate because we knew we had to take care of our own [inaudible]
Mr. Schultz stated that he appreciated the outcome and the comments here He added that he thought we needed to revisit the whole thing from the standpoint of where we're headed.
CORRECTIONS - Ms. Liz Thanel, Business Manager for the Corrections Department and Kent Griffith, Facility Administrator, made the presentation. Ms. Thanel noted that over the last 3 years there has been a 25% increase in prisoner population in both facilities.
Mr. Camp asked how the health and dental expenditures had been held at 3.48%. Ms. Thanel reported that the 3.48% is of the $5,000,000 adopted budget from the prior year. Our health and dental has gone up 43% from the prior year - line item. These are percentages of the 11.86% increase in personnel, 3.4% is because of the health endowment.
Ms. Campbell requested that Ms. Thanel explain the "City Days" notation on the budget. Ms. Thanel explained that City Time is attributed to those prisoners who are serving time under prosecution of City Ordinance violations. Prisoner time served under a State Statute violation is considered County or State Time. The City of Lincoln pays for these City Days. - The total days in this last budget year is 131,000.
Mr. Camp asked if the facilities aren't being utilized, then that increases the cost - how do you allocate out the over-head and/or make the changes in costs. Ms. Thanel noted that it is basically an issue of economics of scale. The more people we have in jail, the cheaper the rate gets...other things not changing. Typically, if we get a large increase in population, you'll see a large increase in budget, simply because we have to feed and medicate and supervise them. An approved budget of 7.3 million with an increase to 340 inmates, we didn't make it through the year. We had to have an additional allocation of $445,000. So, if you compare what it actually costs at a population of 340 in the year that is ending tomorrow, you're actually only looking at a six percent increase in our budget between the two years.
Ms. Campbell noted that this is one inter-local that the City would not want to reopen this next year. A negotiated revamping of the formula about three years ago resulted in an agreement that was in the City's interest to refrain from re-visiting.
Ms. Thanel noted that the cost to the City per inmate serving City time was approx $57.00 per day. It was asked if inmates could be charged for their stay. Ms. Thanel noted that State Statute does provide for charges to inmates who are on work-release. The amount was $4.00 per day and there are limits on what that can include; and that has been increased to $7.00 per day now.
Mr. Griffith commented that there are some states that do that; but he did not believe that there is any enabling legislation that allows that in Nebraska. Mr. Svoboda asked if Arizona hadn't had a County operation that was a tent city. The sheriff was a military man and said if our military personnel could live in tents, so could our prisoners. It was a very cheap program. He asked if that was what Larry & Bernie were looking at on their trip to Arizona's correctional facilities? Ms. Campbell noted that she hoped not, because the law suits are enormous What they used to allow was television. But they've changed that - The only thing they can get now (in Arizona) are re-runs of the County Board Meetings). Comments were made regarding cruel and unusual punishment. [Laughter]
Ms. Campbell felt the community programs would be a benefit to the City. A lot of City time-servers, if they're on a misdemeanor charge, rather than a felony, would benefit. She noted that the County needed to move people out of the correctional facility and create the community programs necessary. She stated that it would take a commitment out of the entire judicial system and the criminal justice system to look at it. She stated that they were hoping to form a special committee out of the Justice Council to start looking at the policies that will need to be in place to do that. She noted that the old joke was that the City took the landfill, the County took the jail. But, she would keep the Commons' apprized as they took steps on this issue.
Mr. Bob Workman noted the split between the City and County. The City pays 18% at this point, if it runs the same in the current year. It was noted that that figure is adjusted as the year goes on. Mr. Camp asked if the figure was based on actual experience. Ms. Thanel replied that the rate is set at the beginning of the year and it is watched. In the middle of this year, we knew that with the population going up so fast that we were over-charging the City, so the Budget Officer was contacted and the rate was cut from $58.50 to $54.00 per day at mid-year.
Mr. Friendt asked the difference between merit and cost of living increases and workers compensation increase? Ms. Thanel answered that their workers compensation fund doubled this year. It was under-funded last year...so we had to make that up.
Mr. Camp concluded by noting that there was constant evaluation and analysis of the whole system to hopefully figure out better ways of operating the correction center. Ms. Thanel stated that they had been trying a few minor changes such as getting more assertive in trying to get inmates to pay their fines rather than opting to sit them out in jail, which costs us $60.00. In the 10 months since this program was started, we have collected almost $50,000.00 which probably would not have been paid previously. Ms. Campbell noted that this had been a question raised at last years budget hearings by the Council members and it looks as though the corrections staff took those concerns to heart.
JUVENILE DIVERSION - The Service Director of Cedars Youth Services noted that she supervised all of the community and outpatient services. Ann Hobbs, the Program Manager of Juvenile Diversion also came forward. She gave a brief history of Juvenile Diversion in Lancaster County and then went on to discuss budget figures.
Mr. Glenn Friendt asked how it is determined exactly how much money to ask from the Common for their budget. Ms. Hobbs answered that based on previous years, they always write grants through the Crime Commission. Those are stacked-down amounts. So, the first year of diversion we received two separate grants one for teen court and one for diversion, for approx. $70,000. At that time, the over-all budget was established, and the other part that wasn't covered in running the program was about $68,000. For the 2nd year we had a Step-down amount through those grants, but we were able to generate more grant revenue by writing new grants; therefore, the amount didn't go up. That is the same for this year. We're off-setting the grants we haven't received, but we're also in the process of writing new grants. A lot of the new funding from the State does not cover some of the new activities that we do. It really covers the cases coming to us and staying out of the courts. So, it's kind of an on-going process of keeping those cases out of court and saving the prosecutors time. Mr. Friendt asked if the cost of this performance that was just described, is covered by the $70,000.00? Ms. Hobbs answered that the majority of this - no. It's about 50% of our activities...the other 50% is grant money.
Mr. Ray Stevens asked if the expenses then ran between $140,000 - $150,000 per year to totally cover this program? Ms. Hobbs noted that that was correct, though it is a little bit higher than that because there is also a grant received for victims services. Victim services bring the over-all budget up to $200,000, but that is not specifically working with youth, that is addressing the victims of the crime. Those include anybody, juvenile or adult in the City of Lincoln; but they are not the perpetrator of a crime.
Ms. Campbell noted this program was a great success story, showing a wonderful example of what public and private partnerships can accomplish. It is one of the Human Service agencies in the community that stepped up when we said we need some diversion and some other programs rather than just putting the youth in detention centers. Cedars has done a great job in working with these young people.
AGING - Ms. Gina Dunning, Director of the Department on Aging, and Dee Fullerton, Aging Departments' Budget Officer, made the presentation. Ms. Dunning stated that she would begin with the budget items that the
Mayor had identified as not being funded "unless the occupation tax is passed". Ms. Dunning outlined her budget.
Ms. Dunning felt the Aging Office programs needed to be re-evaluated, based on the 2000 Census figures. Everybody used to be old after they were 65; now, we're starting to think in terms of "Young Senior (65-75); Middle Senior (75-85) and Old (85+) The services that we need to be ready to provide are different for each of those groups. We're not prepared right now to meet those needs. But, fortunately, we have a lot of time to plan for it. And we also have another dynamic that plays into this. That is that the War on Poverty for seniors is pretty much a success. There are a lot of seniors now retiring with money and are able to care for themselves. A lot of the services that we provide, we charge for. People are willing to pay for them.
Mr. Camp asked if there was more of a trend in a decline of user fees. Ms. Dunning answered that that was true because participation has gone down. She added that one thing that had been noticed this year, which started as soon as the media began talking about the energy crises, (people donate money for meals - a voluntary contribution), the rate of contribution fell off drastically, we felt because people of moderate means were concerned about their utility bills. The user fees are also collected for exercise classes, to ride the van, etc. That is something that needs to be monitored.
She noted that a van was eliminated from the budget for this year, with that funding to be requested from the Seniors Foundation. Ms. Dunning hoped that next year the van cost could be included in the City budget because transportation is a valuable resource for the elderly.
Ms. Dunning also mentioned the large number of hours donated to the agency by volunteers and grants that are being applied for, both of which help greatly in the budget process for the department.
Ms. Dunning continued, noting that the Downtown Senior Center has need of some specific renovations for safety and sanitation reasons. She urged that this amount ($23,400.00) be attended to in the budget for this fiscal year. Mr. Hubka stated that the amount was being appropriated for this purpose in the next years budget.
Ms. Campbell asked about the corridor to the Lincoln Building to the west vs. through Gold's Galleria. Ms. Dunning answered that the walkway has been planned for a long time. The money has been in the CIP Budget for a long time. It has been deferred because to one side is the Lincoln Building and the other side is St. George and the Dragon.
There are apparently difficulties with St. George and the Dragon, a building which causes major problems for the Downtown Senior Center. The Senior Center stinks two days out of the week because there are two empty buildings on either side. The plan was for the Lincoln Building to have a skywalk because they wanted to have access to the Gold's parking lot for their clients. So, there was a decision to have the City continue the skywalk from where it is now through St. George and the Dragon, which is now an empty shell, through the Downtown Senior Center, over to the Lincoln Building.
In order for the Lincoln Building to do it's development, they need to have the skywalk part put in their building, so they can build around it. Apparently there is a tremendous grade problem with a 6 foot slope. Ms. Dunning stated that if she didn't have to have the skywalk go through the Downtown Senior Center, she would not want it there. She will lose an art gallery, plus there will be a security problem because some of the building will have to be closed off. The trade-off is that the City wants the Lincoln Building developed; and they'd like St. George and the Dragon developed.
The County had received a bill from the City for $75,000.00, so the question from the County Board was, if we pay this $75,000.00 when will we be asked for the east side of the skywalk? That was the County Board's concern...will we be billed for the other side? Public Works was the billing entity. [This was not part of Aging's budget concern, so the continued discussion is omitted from these minutes.]
Ms. Seng commented on the change in the senior population over the years, noting that the needs of that population have changed as well. It would be wise to look at and evaluate the programs and where the low-income elderly are located and what we should be providing for them? Ms. Dunning noted that the fastest growing group of elderly is the 85+ group which is the most costly to service. Lincoln and Lancaster County have made a commitment to keep as many people as possible in their own homes; and we've done a very good job of it.
One of the unfortunate realities is that State and Federal dollars have basically lined out. We lost 40% of value in the Federal dollars during the time when there was no increase in Federal funding. Those of us across the State who serve the senior population need to do a better job of accessing State dollars. The State gave us a total increase of $350,000.00 - total this year for everybody. So, it is part of the give- and-take process of government that we make sure we're doing a better job of holding done State dollars.
Mr. Camp requested a print-out of the number of people served at each center in order to evaluate a per person basis of expenditures. Ms. Dunning noted that they do have that information, but added that the services at the senior centers have diminished and the services that we have other places have increased. Mr. Camp requested a print-out of that information. Ms. Dunning stated that they could provide that, but did not want to leave the impression that that is where their services are concentrated. She explained that a lot of Aging's services are in-home or exercise classes, health screenings at the Senior Center. Mr. Friendt asked if those services were also tracked. Ms. Dunning noted that they were. She indicated that she would find the information for them. Mr. Svoboda asked if the annual report issued by the department wouldn't have a lot of that information. Ms. Dunning agreed that it did, but noted that she and Ms. Fullerton had discussed earlier that how many people are served would be hard to quantify. Ms. Fullerton added that the Senior Centers do represent 38% of the total Aging Department Budget.
Ms. Campbell noted then that when evaluating the future direction of Aging services needs, it would be a really wise study. Because with that amount of the budget, it seems we all need to look to the future and ask how those dollars will be best spent. Ms. Dunning noted that those were expenditures. Some things we have to spend atthe senior centers, like nutrition dollars; but your right. We can evaluate to find the best ways to spend the monies.
Mr. Camp noted that he would like to see some kind of quantification to indicate the value for the dollars being spent. Ms. Dunning said she would work on that. She stated that she had a group she had just put together to look at what we do in senior centers. She noted that she had to have some basis for saying yes or no to the requests to open more centers. She noted that the best work she has seen so far is from Israel where they have a very sophisticated senior center system.
Mr. Friendt requested a clarification on the "Total Personnel" line. He noted that it went up about $300,000, noting that last budget year it was about $200,000. He asked if that was for additional people Ms. Dunning noted that it was mostly salary increases. She added that she had a budget problem that she hadn't even talked about. She noted that people get re-classified. Most of the money in the agency is salaries. Ms. Fullerton added that she did not think that when you look at General Fund budgets that you see the fringe benefits. Aging's budget includes all the fringe benefits that employees get. So, the Health Insurance increases of 16% are showing up in this budget under "personnel". Ms. Dunning noted that they hadn't grown at all.
INFORMATION SERVICES - Mr. Doug Thomas came forward to make the presentation. Mr. Thomas noted that their budget was down a little, due to reduced maintenance costs and maintenance contracts. When I.S. migrated to the new Multi [inaudible] IBM Box, one of the reasons was that the pay-back period was approximately 3 years on that and our maintenance was going to drop on soft- and hardware. Now, we're seeing that in next years budget.
The lower personnel costs was due to the transfer of web coordination efforts to CIC. They will have a new position. He noted that I.S. will still be involved in the Website activities, doing the back-room stuff such as tying it to the Legacy databases and those types of things. The day-to-day work, with interaction with other City/County agencies and their web assistants will be handled by CIC. There are several departments in the City and County who are now maintaining their own web pages through their own internal staff...so that is what we had hoped for.
Mr. Thomas explained the Capital Outlay and additional personnel portions of the budget.
Mr. Stevens asked if all of the 4 million per year budget is built into the budgets of other departments as a fee for I.S. services. Mr. Thomas noted that that was correct adding the City/County Agencies as well as LES have their main-frame processing through I.S. That is under the user fee base with hourly rates for PC support staff; for systems developments staffing and other transaction type-charges. He added that some department computer expenses are budgeted from the Micro-computer fund.
Mr. Camp asked if Mr. Thomas felt the budget would continue to decline as the learning curve climbed.
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