Mayor Chris Beutler today said citizen input from the Taking Charge budget process has resulted in his proposal to end non-injury accident reporting in the 2012-2014 budget. He said the proposed budget cut, equal to 2.5 police officers, will allow the City to fund services citizens ranked as higher priorities, including StarTran service, library hours and the Pioneers Park Nature Center.
"In government, it is easy to develop an 'inside the beltway' mentality in which the inner workings of government become the driving force, rather than the citizens we seek to serve," Mayor Beutler said. " The Taking Charge process gives us a citizen's view on our decision-making and helps our employees better understand the expectations of the public. The public engagement aspects of Taking Charge also have given us clear direction as to what citizens want."
Only 42 percent of those responding to the recent online budget survey said they would retain non-injury accident reporting. It was the second year in a row that the service was ranked as the lowest priority among the options listed. Of those survey respondents who wanted to avoid a tax increase, only 34 percent supported non-injury accident reporting. The Mayor said he had been leaning toward cuts in StarTran service that had been recommended in a recent audit. But survey support for StarTran was strong - nearly 68 percent wanted to retain StarTran service.
City Public Safety Director Tom Casady said the City has investigated non-injury traffic accidents and completed vehicle accident reports as a convenience for drivers and their insurance companies. Last year, police investigated about 6,925 non-injury accidents. If the cut is made, officers would still respond to crashes to protect the scene until vehicles are removed; to confirm that drivers are licensed, insured and sober; and to help arrange for a wrecker and transportation. Drivers would still need to compete an accident report for the State Department of Roads when required by law. Drivers would be reliant on their insurance companies for any determination of cause and contributing factors.
The Mayor will present his proposed budget to the City Council Monday, July 9. He said the budget cuts will not be as noticeable as they have been in previous years. The workforce will be reduced by 8.8 full time equivalents, but most of the job reductions are not the result of ending programs.
"It is a cautious budget that does not create big new spending obligations in response to sales tax growth," Beutler said. "It is a fiscally prudent budget that still seeks to provide service more efficiently. And it is a budget that allows the people to have a say in how they are governed."
The Mayor thanked the University of Nebraska Public Policy Center (PPC) which has worked with the City on the Taking Charge public engagement process for five years. He said the PPC has documented increased feelings of trust and confidence in City Hall as a result of the Taking Charge process.
"If people have faith that City Hall is making reasonable decisions, they will be more likely to support the tough choices that need to be made for Lincoln's future," Beutler said. "That faith is how you build a consensus around a project like the Pinnacle Bank Arena or the decision to invest an additional $7 million per year in roads as we did in last year's budget."
The results of the online survey are now available on the City website, lincoln.ne.gov (keyword: taking charge). The Mayor's proposed budget for 2012-2013 will be available beginning Monday afternoon at lincoln.ne.gov (keyword: budget).