City of Lincoln
2006 Media Releases
“The actions taken by the City Council this morning are short-sighted and will have long-term negative consequences for the future of this City,” said Mayor Coleen J. Seng. “The proposed changes will defer problems to later years and ensure that this community will face cuts in public services or additional tax increases after this year.
“At Monday’s public hearing, the majority of citizens advocated either restoring or not cutting public services. The most vocal proponent of cutting services was LIBA. Unfortunately, members of the Council seem more concerned with appeasing this special interest group than all the citizens who showed up to testify that they want services maintained. As elected public officials, our responsibility is to look at what is good for this City. Many of the actions the Council took this morning were budget gimmicks that use one-time funding sources instead of reducing costs.
“Let’s look at just a couple of examples. The first is using carry-over funds from previous budgets for the future operating budget. The cut of one-time carryover funds is a smoke screen and is not a real spending cut. The Council is seeking short-term gratification to say they made cuts, but is ignoring the long-term consequence that may cost the City more money in the long-term. These are unused funds that the Departments have accumulated – sometimes over many years – from creating efficiencies. The funds have only been authorized to be spent for one-time expenditures that do not increase the operating budget. This is a system that has been in place since the early 1990s. The savings from this process pay for many items that would otherwise require more taxpayer dollars. By taking those carry-over funds and using them for general fund expenses for just one year, the Council will destroy a financially responsible system that has done an outstanding job of encouraging efficiencies. The Council action will return us to a very inefficient ‘spend it or lose it’ process.
“Eliminating the traffic engineer, a community development position, animal control officers and a City planner will reduce efficiency and City services. The public will see more traffic congestion, decreased safety and fewer resources for economic growth.
“It is an insult to the ‘strong Mayor’ form of government and to City directors to suggest that we did not prioritize and that we did not make difficult cuts. At my direction, the City Directors already cut $8 million from requested spending. Of course, we all want to pay the lowest tax rate possible. But in a growing City that values its high quality of life, you cannot maintain services, expand to new areas, absorb increased expenses like fuel costs and continue to cut funding every year.
“The fact is that the City property tax rate has dropped 42 percent over the last 12 years. The City tax rate here is only about 30 cents compared to Omaha’s tax rate of 49 cents when you include their bus service. What do we get in return? Police and fire protection, streets and sewers, parks, trails, recreation centers, libraries, health and aging services and much more. In short, Lincoln City government is efficient and effective in providing a safe, clean, livable community.
“The Lincoln Police Department has the lowest ratio of police officers to population of any comparable City in Nebraska and surrounding states. Our Planning Department is serving a community that has grown 40 percent over the past 20 years with 22 percent fewer employees. While the amount of park land has increased 64 percent in the last 15 years, the number of Parks and Rec employees has decreased. Over the past 16 years, the City’s population has increased nearly 25 percent, and the City’s square miles have increased 34 percent. Over that same time period, the number of full-time civilian employees has increased only 4.2 percent. These are just a few examples of examples of how City employees continue to do more with less.
“In short, the Council’s actions this morning reflect a lack of long-term vision. The citizens of this community deserve more. I said last year that the next two to three years of budgets would be difficult. This one has been difficult, and the Council’s actions will make the next budget extremely difficult. I am not against lowering the tax levy. But I am against a one-year tax levy that will lead to massive tax increases in the future.”