With property and sales tax numbers on the rebound, Mayor Chris Beutler said his proposed City budget for 2012-2014 includes no tax increases, no major program cuts, and no use of one-time funds for ongoing expenses. When he took office in 2007, Beutler vowed to fix the City's structural imbalance in the City budget. Since then, he has cut about 141 jobs equal to about $7.6 million in funding.
"We've had to make hard choices on revenues, putting in place the increases that prevented the closure of parks and libraries across the City and devastating cuts in police and fire services," Beutler said. "At the same time, we made bold choices to invest in Lincoln's future. For the first biennial budget in our City's history, our choices are paying off. Our fiscal austerity has created the most stable budget situation since I took office in 2007. We have fixed the structural imbalance and put our house in order. We are positioned to keep Lincoln on the move."
The proposed tax-funded budget for 2012-2013 is $153.6 million, a 4.98 percent increase over the current fiscal year. The proposed tax-funded budget for 2013-2014 is $158.8 million, a 3.43 percent increase over 2012-2013. Over seven budgets, the increase averages 2.89 percent a year. The Mayor will present his 2012-2014 budget to the City Council at 1 p.m. Monday, July 9 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.
Sales taxes and property taxes fund more than 70 percent of the City's tax-funded budget, and revenues from both had flattened over the last few years. City sales tax receipts through 10 months of the current fiscal year are $2.3 million or 4.7 percent above projections, and the property tax base is again growing. Out of every property tax dollar, the City receives about 15.6 cents, and Lincoln's property tax rate ranks 12th when compared to the State's 15 largest cities.
But the Mayor said budget challenges remain. Employee health care costs are projected to increase by 24 percent due mainly to inflation and claims experience. The cost per FTE (full-time equivalent) has increased 15.72 percent over the past four years, outpacing the Consumer Price Index (8.95 percent) and sales and property tax revenue (6.47 percent).
Personnel costs make up about 70 percent of the City budget. State law mandates that City salaries and benefits be comparable to other cities its size. All civilian labor unions have agreed to reduce the two-to-one retirement match for new employees.
The Mayor thanked City employees for continuing to do more with less. Since the 2006-2007 fiscal year, Lincoln's has grown 11.9 percent in population and 7.4 percent in size. Over the same time period, the City workforce has declined by 6.3 percent. For civilian employees, the decline has been 9.7 percent.
Mayor Beutler is proposing an increase in the hourly metered parking rate from 50 cents to $1 to encourage turnover at the most convenient parking spots. The budget also calls for new Fire and Rescue fees for fire false alarms, calls for non-emergency assistance in moving patients and vehicle extraction and hazardous materials response. The library system will increase some fees to replace revenue losses.
Changes in the proposed budget also include:
The entire budget will be available at lincoln.ne.gov. The public hearing on the City budget is scheduled for Monday, August 6. The new fiscal year begins September 1.