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Mayor's Office

2009 Media Releases


Date:
June 3, 2009
For More Information Contact:
Diane Gonzolas, Citizen Information Center, 441-7831
Alan Tomkins, Public Policy Center, 472-5678


"TAKING CHARGE" RESULTS SHOW SUPPORT FOR CITY SERVICES
Survey also indicates increased trust in City government

Chris Beutler today said the preliminary results of the "Taking Charge" survey reflect a balanced view of City spending and show that residents want a carefully managed budget that justifies expenditures. The City worked with the University of Nebraska Public Policy Center on the project, which included an online survey completed by more than 1,800 residents and a community discussion attended by more than 100 people. The project focused on City services in danger of being eliminated or reduced in the 2009-2010 budget.

"Lincolnites are realistic about the future, and they recognize that we can't have it all," Beutler said. "In some cases, they felt Lincoln's future demanded that we commit funds to keep programs. In some cases, they were willing to forgo programs they felt weren't as important to their vision of Lincoln."

Online survey respondents indicated support in the following areas:

  • Keeping neighborhood pools open - 83 percent, 43 percent through increasing property taxes and 40 percent by cutting evening hours at all pools
  • Keeping neighborhood libraries open - 81 percent, 42 percent through increasing property taxes
  • Maintaining after-school programs to prevent youth crime - 71 percent willing to increase property taxes by 18 cents per month for the average household, and nearly 20 percent willing to spend more
  • Continuing health screening for homeless individuals - 70 percent willing to increase property taxes one cent per month
  • Continuing West Nile prevention efforts - 66 percent willing to increase property taxes two cents per month.
  • Continuing to pay insurance costs for volunteers who serve older adults - 62 percent willing to increase property taxes by 14 cents per month
  • Maintaining asbestos inspection of buildings - 60 percent willing to increase property taxes by one cent per month.

The majority of survey respondents did not support increasing taxes for stormwater and floodplain review; the drafting and review of annexation agreements; and the youth tobacco use prevention program. Respondents also preferred charging property owners the cost of indoor air quality investigation and increasing user fees for Parks and Recreation programs.

"In short, citizens prioritized the dollars they were willing to spend, just as they do each and every day as part of their household budgets," Beutler said. "Two-thirds of the respondents indicated they would support some level of property tax increase. I do not regard this finding as a City-wide mandate to raise taxes. Surveys have limitations that must be recognized. But it would be unfair to ignore the opinions of more than 1,800 people who demonstrated an interest in saving key City services."

Mayor Beutler said many of the survey respondents indicating support for an increase in property taxes to save services wanted it limited to less than $1 per month, a less than one-cent levy increase in the City tax rate.

Residents also were asked to rate their level of confidence in City government. Most residents expressed trust and confidence in City government, and the residents who participated in the discussions displayed marked increases in their trust and confidence after spending the day considering which programs and services should be retained versus eliminated.

"It is clear than when government honestly and forthrightly allows citizens to examine the same facts we as elected officials examine, their faith in our decision-making increases, even in those circumstances where they don't agree with the results," Beutler said.

Information on the Taking Charge initiative is available on the City Web site, lincoln.ne.gov. The large group sessions from the public budget discussion on May 16 are airing on 5 CITY-TV and are available through video-on-demand through the City Web site. The Public Policy Center's complete report is available by calling 472-5678, or visiting http://ppc.nebraska.edu.


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