Based on the proposed budget, for the second year in a row, the Mayor and City Council have cost Lincoln’s taxpayers more money. Last year the Mayor and Council raised our property taxes 10% and the wheel tax 37%. This year the Mayor asked his department heads to figure out how they could charge citizens and businesses more through fees.
The Mayor will boast about cutting employee positions, but the reality is costs are going up. In fact, the 1,160 city employees who are funded through tax dollars, have wages and benefits that are costing an average of $86,000 a year. For the last three years, the cost of the average tax-funded city employee has gone up as follows:
- 2011 – $78,299
- 2012 – $82,665
- 2013 – $86,111
Eleven years ago, Lincoln residents were promised “better, faster, cheaper” service when the city took over ambulance services, yet since 2001 those costs have ratcheted up and up.
We suggest a complete study to see if the services are cost effective. We went back 10 years and found that the average cost for a City of Lincoln EMS Transport employee was $71,619. In round numbers, this year, the 28 EMS Transport employees will cost the city $2.9 million or an average of $104,000. Next year those same 28 employees will cost $3.1 million or an average of $111,000 per employee. And now Lincoln Fire and Rescue wants to charge taxpayers a $1,200 fee for the Jaws of Life to pay for these costs.
The city has also resorted to increasing fees on children, developers, parents and businesses and is putting a 100 percent increase on 911 services to get more money from other government bodies.
It ultimately comes down to one thing and that is that the Mayor is driven to get more money from the citizens of Lincoln to pay high city employee wage-and-benefit packages. This kind of spending must stop. While the administration blames the Commission on Industrial Relations, the CIR is not the only problem when it comes to these wages.
In addition to high city employee costs, LIBA has some other concerns about this year’s proposed budget. LIBA does not support the proposal of the $1.1 million for cash reserves. Instead, LIBA calls upon the council to be more willing to look for ways to lower property taxes.
LIBA also believes that more police officers should be considered for the future of Lincoln’s public safety. We recognize that the Mayor has opted to keep the two police officers that he was initially threatening to cut. However, most observers believe cutting these two officers was never a real threat but a public safety “bluff.” This is a pattern that we’ve seen for years. (Last year the proposal was to close a fire station.)
The Beutler Administration must stop using its power to scare the community with false cuts or bluffs like were suggested for the Lincoln Police Department. It seems clear to us that these cuts were never intended to take place, but rather tossed about in order to soften the blow for more fee increases. The solution to saving the two police officers was to add another fee that will be charged to the citizens of Lincoln.
If Lincoln were really seeking to reduce staff, wouldn’t the city first seek to eliminate positions like the Green Sustainability Coordinator whose Federal funding has run-out or meaningful reductions to the Information Services department which has 37 employees? LIBA can present other ways to easily trim the budget, but our suggestions have fallen on deaf ears.
This administration is seeking new fees and taxing the poor and middle class to fund upper-class city employees. The mentality needs to change from spending taxpayer dollars to saving taxpayer dollars.