This first ever biennial budget seems to be less controversial because it doesn't include the two features that usually cause an uproar, tax increases and program cuts, but some service fees are set to increase.
No programs will be cut and no major tax hikes for Lincoln Residents in the city's 2012-2014 budget , but a number of fees will help pay for the city's expenditures over the next two years.
Lincoln City council members met for more than an hour on Wednesday to hash out the details and finalize the two-year plan. While ironing out the particulars, the Council decided not to ask residents to pay a fee for the 'jaws of life' service, but most of the other fee-based items will be part of the budget to be voted on by the members on August 20th.
About three quarters of the city's operating budget goes toward personnel costs, something the state has a say in. LIBA president Coby Mach says there has to be more ways to cut costs without charging the public.
Lincoln Mayor Chris Beutler said of the plan “I want to thank and congratulate the City Council on completing the City’s first biennial budget. It is a great achievement to pass a budget that has no tax increase, no major program cuts, and no use of one-time money. I am proud of the fact that we continued to work together after the budget’s introduction to find compromise. The spirit of cooperation has allowed us to fix the budget’s structural imbalance while continuing to provide the services that has helped make Lincoln a nationally recognized community for business climate and quality of life.”
The mayor credits tough choices in previous years for avoiding these two outcomes.
"It is another indication of the success we've had as a community over the past five years. Our investments in the future are paying off. The Pinnacle Bank Arena, Innovation Campus and a number private sector investments across the city are helping generate a sales tax 6% higher than last year and creating jobs," Mayor Beutler said.
To make up the lack of a tax increase, the budget proposes several changes that could affect citizens daily.
"We moved a little more in the direction people wanted us to go. We decided it made the most sense to people who use city services pay for them through user fees rather than rely upon all tax payers whenever that choice was reasonable," Beutler said.
Some of those fee changes include increased fines at libraries, a doubled parking meter rate and a new $15 charge for non-injury police accident reports. One fee that's been removed ...the "jaws of life" fee for when a vehicle requires extrication.