Lincoln City Council Faces Difficult Decision

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Lincoln, Neb.-- The Lincoln City Council has yet to make a decision on the city’s proposed $339 million Biennial budget.

As of Sunday, the debate centers on public safety versus parks and recreation.

Mayor Chris Beutler said on Friday that he has $400,000 to work with, and the money needs to be spent in the best interest of the people.

The “best” way, however, is different depending on whom you ask.

City Councilman, Roy Christensen said the choice for the budget is simple, to utilize the money to add more people to the Lincoln Police Department.

“Let’s not fall behind as quickly as we have been,” said Christensen.

Christensen said the ratio between police officers and amount of people in the city has fallen over the years.

Christensen said Lincoln has the lowest number of officers per capita in the state of Nebraska. According to Christensen, currently Lincoln has 1.2 officers per 1,000 residents. In 1988, Lincoln had 1.4 officers per 1,000 residents. Nationally, it’s 1.7-1.9 officers per 1,000 residents.

“Our city grows,” said Christensen. “But we haven’t added police officers along with it.”

Though, Parks and Recreation Director, Lynn Johnson said what they do is also important.

“Public safety is a really comprehensive set of programs,” said Johnson. “Some of it is obviously it’s police on the streets that’s an important piece of it, but some of it is making sure is we have after-school programs that kids have purposeful activities.”

Christensen is asking for four police officers. If Mayor Beutler approves his proposal, Johnson said he would be forced to make cuts.

“Five neighborhood pools,” said Johnson. “And a couple of programs for the vulnerable population.”

Mayor Beutler told 10/11 News: In his opinion, people would support increased response times rather than more money for parks and recreation.

There is a public hearing scheduled for Monday, Aug. 11. The new fiscal year begins on September 1.