City Council, Mayor Beutler's office at odds over upcoming budget

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LINCOLN, Neb.-- The Lincoln City Council is calling on Mayor Chris Beutler's office to stop playing "political games every budget season."

This comes on the heels of the mayor's office requesting the public's opinion through the Taking Charge Survey online, which is aimed at helping develop the city's budget. Some in the City Council said the mayor is claiming a $3.3 million budget shortfall.

"We've seen this happen before where there's an announcement that there's a shortfall," Trent Fellers, of the City Council, said, "and we have to figure out where to come up with the money."

The mayor outlined eight current city programs they classify as lower priority. Those include the health information and referral call center, neighborhood snow removal, parking and abandoned vehicle enforcement, in-home services for seniors, one day of library service, non-injury traffic accident reporting, Pioneers Park Nature Center and neighborhood swimming pools.

However, by outlining these services, Councilman Roy Christensen said the mayor is using these programs and the public as a cover for increasing taxes and spending.

The City Council wants to forego the public survey and meet with the mayor to address the issues. Fellers also said that this isn't about ignoring the public's opinion.

"The more we can work together the better solutions that we're gonna have on this," Fellers said, "and hopefully we can find a solution that protects these programs and keeps the city moving forward."

But, the mayor's office said they're surprised and disappointed the City Council is taking this approach.

"We don't understand why the City Council wants to forego literally thousands of citizens being involved in the budget decision," Rick Hoppe, the mayor's chief of staff, said.

Hoppe said they don't want to cut any programs and want to protect them. However, they also believe the City Council has to be realistic about what is at stake.

"[The City Council] can't just say fund everything and don't raise taxes and expect this to all work out," Hoppe said.

"That's fantasy land."

The mayor's office said they're not going to take the survey down from the website. If you want to voice your opinion about which programs matter to you most, head to lincoln.ne.gov and click the Taking Charge Survey link. You can also visit the website and keyword search: Taking Charge.

The 2016-2018 Budget Proposal will be released July 11. A public hearing is scheduled for Monday, Aug. 8. The final budget won't be adopted until Aug. 22.