Mayor Chris Beutler has released a City budget he says "puts our fiscal house in order" through a combination of budget cuts, reorganization, a utility cost shift and revenue increases. The proposed $144 million tax-funded budget is a 2.66 percent increase over last year. The Mayor will present his 2011-2012 budget to the City Council at 1 p.m. Monday, July 11 in the City Council Chambers, 555 S. 10th St. The presentation will be carried live on 5 CITY-TV (government access cable channel 5) and available through video-on-demand at lincoln.ne.gov.
"Our proposed budget meets the two most pressing challenges faced by the City: fixing the budget's structural imbalance and investing in roads for our future," Beutler said. "We have to choose whether we want to make cuts that change the essential character of our community or make the investments that will both build the roads we need and put our fiscal house in order."
Beutler said his proposal will allow the City to continue to fund neighborhood libraries, seven City pools, the Pioneers Park Nature Center, over 90 City parks, six Police Officers, four Public Safety officers and three victim and witness advocates.
The City faced a budget gap of about $9.3 million, and Beutler said $4 million of that can be attributed to five factors beyond City control:
The Mayor proposes covering the $4 million with a 2.8-cent increase in the City's property tax levy. The 1.38 percent increase in the total property tax levy would add $3.49 per month to the taxes paid on a $150,000 home. Except for voter-approved bond issues, it is the first City property tax increase since the 1993-94 fiscal year. The City's property tax levy would remain one of the lowest among the State's 15 largest cities. Lincoln's share of the total property tax levy is about 14.4 percent.
The budget also calls for shifting about $6 million in costs associated with street lights to the Lincoln Electric System (LES). About $2.7 million would go to the City's General Fund. Another $2.7 million along with $1.2 million generated by a $10 wheel tax increase would provide $3.9 million in road funding for 2011-2012. Road funding would rise to $7.1 million when the plan is fully implemented. The remaining $500,000 from the LES shift would go into the City's "rainy day" fund.
Beutler said the City's past use of one-time funds has contributed to the budget challenges, and no one-time funds will be used to balance the 2011-12 budget.
The proposed budget calls for the net elimination of 35 positions. That brings the total net job loss in the Mayor's first five budgets to 151, a savings of about $7.4 million. The $2.2 million in cuts and reorganization proposed for 2011-12 include:
The entire budget and the City's prioritized program list are available at lincoln.ne.gov. The public hearing on the City budget is scheduled for Monday, August 8. The new fiscal year begins September 1.