MAYOR IMPLEMENTS HIRING FREEZE
Sales tax figures below projections
Mayor Chris Beutler today announced that he is implementing a hiring freeze for the City of Lincoln effective January 1. The Mayor said the freeze is one measure he is taking to keep this year’s budget balanced in light of lagging sales tax revenues.
“Prudent budgeting the last two years has put us in position to maintain current services in the current budget year,” Beutler said. “But continued sales tax shortfalls could negatively impact City services this year. The freeze is equally important as we put together the first outlines of the 2009-2010 budget. The freeze creates opportunities for re-organization and minimizes the need for lay-offs.”
December sales tax receipts reflect October sales and refunds. For the first four months of the current fiscal year, receipts are behind projections about $560,000 or about 3 percent. In addition to slower consumer spending, a large number of sales tax refunds were claimed by businesses under State tax incentive laws. Sales tax revenue makes up 42 percent of the City’ tax-supported budget.
The City currently has 43 vacant positions. Under the freeze, jobs will be filled only for those positions deemed critical to public safety or to the continued functioning of necessary, budgeted programs. If a position opens during the freeze, it will not be filled unless approved by the Hiring Review Committee. In its review, the Committee considers the options and possible overtime costs incurred by not filling a position.
The Mayor said another measure to control costs is an audit of phone bills to check for possible overcharges. The City and Lancaster County will soon issue a Request for Proposals to identify a firm to conduct the audit. Beutler said the audit “offers promise” in reducing the City’s annual phone expenses of more than one million dollars. The firm hired would receive a percentage of the City’s savings.
Beutler said the City’s move to outcome-based budgeting also is providing a fresh look at City services in preparation for making budget decisions for 2009-2010 fiscal year. He said the goal is to better align the City services provided with overall goals and missions, and he is now involved in budget meeting with groups of Directors from different City Departments.
“We are asking Directors to evaluate programs by outcome rather than by Department,” Beutler said. “Members of the private sector are also attending these meetings to help us evaluate our programs, develop new ideas and find potential efficiencies.”
Beutler said past budget decisions have been critical to the City’s ability to weather the national economic crisis. He said he will continue to implement cautious and prudent fiscal policies to set the stage for Lincoln’s future as the national economy recovers.