The Lincoln Independent Business Association (LIBA) supports upgrading the 911 radio system and relocation of fire stations, however, LIBA is concerned that the process is moving too quickly leaving communication issues and funding options unaddressed.
This bond issue is moving at an unprecedented rate. It was announced on August 14th and the Council is being asked to vote on it just 11 days later. This short time leaves several communications and funding issues unresolved which must be addressed or explained before the City can responsibly move forward.
First, the City must explore all funding sources. Nebraskan’s already pay high property taxes and city leaders should explore all other funding options before increasing Lincoln’s property tax. Possible funding avenues may include asking non-city users to contribute to the up-front capital costs of the 911 system, utilizing the 911 surcharge, or increasing Lincoln’s sales tax by ¼ cent to fund the project.
LIBA is aware of recent unsuccessful efforts to propose a sales tax increase, however, the 911 radio system and fire station relocation were not a part of the committee conversation. Initial presentations included these projects but the tax increase committee did not discuss them; purportedly because the Fire Union opposed fire station relocation.
LIBA is not recommending any of these funding ideas; they are listed as examples of funding options which need the City needs to explore before turning the property tax.
Next, the City must resolve communication issues including:
- Lack of information provided to the community about the specifics of this bond proposal
- Lack of discussion during the budget process. Any project important enough to require an expedited bond issue should have been important enough to be discussed as a part of the overall budget
- Lack of communication with non-city users. The City has not yet contacted users about the 911 radio upgrade even though users will have to acquire new equipment costing some users up to a quarter of a million dollars.
- No plan for sharing capital costs. The City has not yet negotiated a plan for how non-city users of the radio system contribute to capital costs of the system and how those revenues will be used
- Lack of coordination between radio system upgrade and 911 facilities upgrade. The Capital Improvement Program (CIP) lists a need to upgrade 911 facilities within four years, rates this as a more pressing need than building fire stations 15 and 16 and states that it should be planned in coordination with a radio system upgrade. Thus far, 911 facilities have not been a part of the bond discussion.
The last minute addition of two fire stations to this bond issue only reinforces the fact that this is moving too quickly. The city must slow this process down to prioritize what is necessary and what is merely desirable before citizens for more money.
The 911 radio system upgrade and relocation of two fire stations are clearly necessary projects. The question is not “IF” Lincoln should build but HOW Lincoln pays for it. This bond issue was proposed only 11 days ago while it has been very successful at raising awareness of necessary public safety projects more work needs to be done before placing it on the ballot.