Mayor To Present New Budget To City Council Monday
Lincoln, NE (June 12, 2022) Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird has proposed a $243 Million dollar tax supported City budget for the coming year. The amount is six-and-a-half percent higher than the current year’s $227 million. The proposal also includes $253 Million in tax supported spending the following year.
In a wide ranging briefing, the Mayor said her budget proposal calls for investments in services and infrastructure to enhance public safety and health, fuel economic growth, provide excellent customer service, and protect Lincoln’s high quality of life. She said those investments can be made while cutting the property tax rate by $1.2 Million, due to the strong and growing sales tax collections, a growing economy, and a record setting pace of private sector building and development which has not slowed down during the pandemic.
“If you look across the Country during the pandemic, some cities had stay at home orders, some cities and states didn’t allow construction for a time. That was never the case here in Lincoln. We’re setting records for construction in our housing market and commercial permits.”
Asked about inflation and its impact on the upcoming year, Gaylor Baird said that several City Departments had locked in contract prices for needed goods, hedging against increases. She cited fuel price forward contracting by Transportation and Utilities Director Liz Elliott as an example.
The Mayor said the past two city budget years have been focused on dealing with the pandemic, and believes the strategy has paid off.
“Our pandemic response at the City, along with our Community Partners, has resulted in Lancaster County having one of the lowest mortality rates in the Country.”
Recent figures from the Centers for Disease Control back up the claim. Lincoln’s death rate from Covid 19 has been 102 per 100-thousand people, compared with 161 for the state as a whole, and less than half the rates in Kansas, Iowa and South Dakota.
One of the new employees proposed is an economic development specialist.
“Someone who can provide specialized support while projects move through the City’s processes, and also to have a focus on coordinating our affordable housing efforts.”
The mayor said the city’s building and safety department will be hiring several new plans inspectors, and another electrical inspector, to help keep up with the growing number of development projects expected.
The budget proposes adding five more police officers. She was asked how that would be done, when the department is understaffed currently.
“Filling those vacancies is going to be a big focus of year one” she said. “The additional five officers are added in year two, to allow time to fill vacancies and then continue to add based on the growth of the community. That was the Chief’s request so that’s the strategy that she thinks makes sense right now.”
The budget package anticipates that free rides on Star Tran will end when federal pandemic subsidies run out. However, they probably will not return as high as they were before Covid 19.
“That’s going to help us purchase the para-transit vehicles, to pay drivers, and to make bus station improvements we need so that people are more inclined to actually ride the bus.”
The mayor’s budget proposes seven additional para-transit vans, two more bus drivers, and improvements to bus stops.
It also includes numerous improvements in the categories labeled “Protecting the health and safety of all Lincoln families.”
A Community-wide home health visitation initiative is expected to support the health of women and infants. Support for essential dental care for low income residents is increased. Two environmental health educators are expected to help reduce the health risks associated with hazardous waste, poisonous substances, and the environmental impacts of climate change. One additional Animal Control Officer is also included, as a response to a 22% increase in pets since 2007.
The package will be presented formally to the City Council Monday afternoon. From that point, hearings focusing on individual department requests will be held throughout June, Council members will study and recommend changes during July, a Public hearing will be held on August 5, and final approval is scheduled for August 22. The new tax request and rate will be set October 3.