Lincoln City Council Approves Budget with 7.4% First Year Increase, 4% Next Year | local government

Lincoln City Council on Monday approved a two-year budget that, bolstered by a projected 18% increase in sales tax revenue in the first year, will add more than 60 new positions, including firefighters, police officers, 911 dispatchers and public health nurses.

The board approved several amendments to the budget that will have the net effect of using $1.5 million of two cash reserve funds for a business incentive and energy incentives for homeowners.

Richard Meginnis, the only Republican on the board to introduce several of the amendments, was ultimately the only one to vote against approving the biennial tax-funded budget.

“That’s too much increase in one year,” he said in an interview after the meeting. “The budget that was presented to us was too strong at the moment.”

The $243.5 million tax-funded budget for 2022-23 represents a 7.4% increase in spending, or nearly $16.7 million. The budget will increase by $9.8 million, or 4%, in the second year of the budget.

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The two main sources of revenue are property taxes and sales taxes, although miscellaneous fees and an occupancy tax account for about a quarter of the city’s revenue.

The budget was built on the assumption that property assessments will increase 3% in 2022-23 and 7% the following year, and that strong sales tax revenues will stabilize in year two, only increasing than 1.2%.

The city plans to cut its tax rate by half a cent, saving taxpayers $1.2 million.

The overall tax rate – for the general fund, plus smaller levies for library, police and fire pensions and bond redemption – will be 31.293 cents per $100 of assessment. The owner of a $226,342 home in Lincoln — the average price in 2021 — would pay $708.29 to fund the city government, a savings of $11.31 from last year.

The municipal share of property taxes collected is 16%. The lion’s share of a homeowner’s tax bill — 61% — goes to supporting Lincoln Public Schools.

The budget marks a return to the municipal practice of adopting biennial budgets. The last two budgets were each annual budgets due to the uncertainty of the pandemic.

More than half of the new positions in the budget will strengthen security and public health services, including five additional police officers in the second year of the budget cycle, as well as three civilian employees; six additional firefighters, two emergency dispatchers and eight public health nurses to expand a visitation program for all new mothers.

Meginnis had originally suggested changing Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird’s proposed budget to eliminate the expansion of the visitation program, but he did not get the support of his colleagues, so he stayed.

Existing funds will pay for the expansion of the program in the first year, and it will cost $153,633 the following year. After that, the annual cost will be $737,725, a portion of which will be paid for by the county.

Meginnis’ colleagues also narrowly voted against another of his proposals, which would have eliminated a new position in the Department of Health, a job to create an emergency management plan for the human impacts of natural disasters.

Not all positions added are paid through the tax-funded budget. Some will be paid for through pet license fees, and others are paid for with federal funds. Some are in joint city-county offices, so the county bears some of the costs.

The board approved further budget amendments by Meginnis, as well as Bennie Shobe and Sändra Washington.

These include Meginnis’ proposal to add $1 million from cash reserves to a little-used trade incentive called the Fast Forward Fund; Shobe’s proposal to add $250,000 each year for incentives for homeowners who purchase more efficient heating and cooling systems; and Washington’s proposal to add $100,000 to the capital improvement program to study the impact of development in the Salt Creek watershed.

The council also approved freezing fee increases for child care programs and catering businesses, and transferring funds from a vacancy on city council to pay for additional employees in the city clerk’s office. .

Tammy Ward and Meginnis voted against raising occupancy fees for waste haulers, although those increases ultimately passed by a 5-2 vote.

Despite a recommendation from a mayor-appointed StarTran advisory board to keep bus use free, the board accepted the mayor’s proposal to reintroduce the fee, but at a lower rate than before the pandemic.

The budget also calls for spending $42.6 million in 2022-23 and $45.5 million the following year for street improvements and new construction. This includes about $15 million each year in revenue from the quarter-cent street sales tax.

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