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2008 Media Releases


Date:
April 1, 2008
For More Information Contact:
Diane Gonzolas, Citizen Information Center, 441-7831
Alan Tomkins, Public Policy Center, 472-5678


MAYOR ANNOUNCES ONLINE SURVEY AND TOWN HALLS FOCUSING ON CITY BUDGET

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Downloadable Brochure PDF - 747K
Budget Overview

Mayor Chris Beutler today encouraged citizens to give their opinions on the City budget by participating in an online survey and attending a town hall meeting. The efforts are part of an effort to solicit public opinion on how the City should spend tax dollars called “PRIORITY LINCOLN – We’re listening.” PRIORITY LINCOLN began last month with a phone survey of 600 residents, which is almost completed.

“To make sure the telephone survey results are statistically valid, only those selected at random could participate in that part of the project,” said Mayor Beutler. “We are excited about moving in to the next phase of PRIORITY LINCOLN which gives everyone in the community an opportunity to share their ideas with us.”

The online survey is available on the City Web site at lincoln.ne.gov. The survey is designed to allow citizens to prioritize City services and provide comments on their decisions. Printed copies of the online survey also will be available at all Lincoln libraries.

The City is partnering with Leadership Lincoln, Inc. on a series of town hall meetings to allow residents another venue to express their opinions about budget priorities. Doors will open at 5:30 p.m., and the meetings will be from 6 to 8 p.m. The schedule is:

  • April 22, Lincoln Southwest High, 7001 S. 14th Street
  • April 24, LPS District Offices, 5901 “O” Street (This town hall is hosted by the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council, and young people are encouraged to attend.)
  • April 29, North Star High School, 5801 North 33rd Street
  • May 6, Lincoln High School, 2229 “J" Street

The City is borrowing an audience response technology system from UNL to allow for instant feedback from those attending the town hall meetings. Up to 150 citizens will be able to participate, using small remote devices to register their opinions. (The system is not available for the May 6 town hall.)

Beutler said PRIORITY LINCOLN is a necessary first step toward implementing “outcome-based budgeting,” a process that ties programs to the goals that citizens want local government to accomplish. The City is working with the University of Nebraska Public Policy Center and the University of Nebraska - Lincoln Bureau of Sociological Research on the project.

Beutler thanked the Lincoln Community Foundation for funding PRIORITY LINCOLN. “I really salute the community spirit and leadership exhibited by its Board and by Bob Harris, the Interim President,” he said. “Bob has a vision for the Foundation and is leading his group in a similar discussion of what the Foundation’s relationship with the City should be. As a result, a key part of the surveys will be the exploration of what programs should be funded by the non-profit sector.

The results of the scientific phone survey will be announced in mid-April. Alan Tomkins, Director of the Public Policy Center, said those not familiar with survey research often question how a poll of 600 can represent the views in a city of Lincoln’s size. “This sample size gives us a confidence margin for the PRIORITY LINCOLN phone survey of plus or minus 4 percent,” Tomkins said. “The purpose of the phone survey is to give the Mayor’s Office and the City Council a strong sense of the public's priorities, not a precise count of how citizens would vote if they were the elected leaders.”

About 60 of those selected for the phone survey also will participate in a follow-up discussion. Portions will be taped for viewing on 5 CITY-TV (cable channel 5) and through video-on-demand on the City Web site, lincoln.ne.gov.

The Mayor is scheduled to make his decisions on the 2008-2009 City budget in May, and the budget is released to the public in June. The City Council votes on tentative changes to the Mayor’s budget in July. The public hearing is scheduled for August 11, and the Council is scheduled to adopt the budget August 25.


PRIORITY LINCOLN: We’re listening.

BUDGET OVERVIEW

  • Out of every property tax dollar paid by Lincoln homeowners, only 14.3 cents goes to support City government. An individual’s total property tax bill is determined by the budget actions of all governmental entities, including Lancaster County (13.7 cents) and the Lincoln Public Schools/ESUs (64.1 cents). Each elected body sets its tax rate independently.
  • The City receives 42 percent of its revenue from sales taxes and 30.7 percent from property taxes. Sales tax revenues grew during the 1990s as local retail construction increased to meet demand. In a recent study, the State Revenue Department concluded that Lincoln’s sales tax receipts have now leveled off as that demand has been met.
  • The City property tax rate has dropped 44.7 percent since 1993-94. The tax budget as a percentage of personal income has dropped from 1.65 to 1.4 percent from 1990 to 2004.
  • Of the state’s top ten largest cities, Lincoln’s City property tax rate is among the lowest, behind Bellevue, Hastings, North Platte, Omaha, Fremont and Columbus.
  • More than 50 percent of City tax dollars fund public safety services.
  • To balance the 2007-08 fiscal year budget, the City cut 63.5 positions, saving $2.8 million, including $1.8 million in tax funds.
  • Over the last decade, Lincoln’s population has grown by a number equal to the total size of Kearney. Since 1990-91, the City’s population has increased by 25.7 percent, and the City’s size has increased 39.1 percent. Over that same time period, the number of City employees other than public safety has decreased.
  • State law mandates that City salaries and benefits be comparable to those of other cities our size. Other expenses not under City control include fuel cost hikes, the overall inflation rate and State and federal mandates.
  • For the 2008-09 fiscal year, the City projects revenues to increase by $3.2 million and costs to increase by $9.1 million, leaving a gap of $5.9 million.


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