Mayor Chris Beutler today said the City is facing two key budget challenges in developing the budget for the 2016-2018 biennium. And he encouraged the public to complete a new Taking Charge budget survey to provide input on upcoming decisions. The survey is available at lincoln.ne.gov (keyword: Taking Charge) through the end of June. Printed versions will be available at Lincoln City Libraries and the Mayor's Office.
Mayor Beutler said the City is facing a budget gap because of two main factors:
"The pension is consuming an increasing portion of the City's budget," Beutler said. "When I took office, we were contributing about $3.4 million a year. That amount more than doubled by 2015-2016 to almost $7 million. Now, we must find another one to five million more to keep the pension on firm financial footing and protect the retirement savings of the Police Officers and Firefighters who serve us."
Beutler said the new survey simulates the real decisions faced by policy-makers. Respondents are given $500,000 to spend on eight current City programs with a total cost of about $2 million. The programs chosen for the survey have been ranked as lower priority compared to other City services. They include the following:
After respondents choose the programs they would like to see funded or discontinued, the online version calculates the property tax impact. For instance, if a person chooses not to continue any of the programs, the property tax reduction would be about $4.50 per year. If the person chooses to fully fund all the programs, the property tax increase would be about $13 per year.
"I have come to strongly believe in the Taking Charge process because it helps us identify taxpayer preferences and develop the community consensus we need to move Lincoln forward," Beutler said.
The Taking Charge survey also has a section on future needs, including the South Beltway, Parks and Recreation capital needs, increased StarTran service, Bennett Martin Library replacement, and golf program capital needs.
The Taking Charge process also includes a Community Conversation among City leaders and members of the public the morning of Saturday, June 18. Residents can sign up to participate at the end of the survey. The Mayor also thanked Leadership Lincoln for being a partner in the Community Conversation this year.
The City has partnered with the University of Nebraska Public Policy Center (PPC) since 2008 on the Taking Charge process, which has included surveys and public meetings. More information is available at ppc.nebraska.edu.
NOTE: The program, "Services to crime victims and witnesses" was included in the Neighborhood Extra version of the survey but not in the on-line survey. It was removed from the on-line survey as the program is grant funded and property tax dollars are not needed to support the program. This change occurred too late to be reflected in the Lincoln Journal Star insert set to be published May 28th, 2016.