Mayor says Lincoln faces a growth barrier

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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) Mayor Chris Beutler says the City of Lincoln is facing a growth barrier. The mayor says Councilwoman Cyndi Lamm's comments about past budgets were a partisan attack which obscures the issue of the growth barrier.

In the 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 budget years, the City Council has approved a one percent increase in the City budget. State law allows cities budgets to grow 2.5 percent each year.

Governing bodies can vote on that one percent increase to allow budgets to grow 3.5 percent per year.

Beutler says the City Council has not approved a one percent increase to the budget the past seven of nine years.

"If that additional one percent increase to the budget is not consistently approved in a growing community, it will wreak havoc," Beutler says. "Cities like Omaha, Bellevue and other large cities in Nebraska approve the one percent every year."

Lamm says that in the years the City Council approved the one percent increase, there was a misinterpretation of votes. In both of those years, five of the six Council members voted to approve the increase.

Lamm says that the question is whether a six votes are required even if one member is absent.

She says she has been trying to get the administration to fix these misreported votes, but nothing has been done.

“There have been at least two occasions where Mayor Beutler and his staff have improperly informed state officials that the city budget funds could exceed the statutory growth rate even though the measure did not receive enough votes,” says Lamm.

She says because of this error, Lincoln taxpayers have not been afforded the full protection of state law and are now backed into a corner.

Beutler says growth helps take pressure off taxpayers and helps reduce property taxes. He also says he wants to move forward and help craft a solution to adopt a one percent increase for the 2018-2020 biennial budget.