OMAHA, Neb. – Tuesday, Mayor Jean Stothert delivered the City Council her $474 million General Fund budget proposal for the upcoming year, an increase of 3.9% from 2022.
The mayor’s plan raises healthcare coverage for city employees by 5.5%; the additional $75,2 million amounts to $17,511 each city employee and $23,104 per firefighter.
Consequently, the city’s cash reserves amount to $54.3 million.
Stothert stated on Tuesday in a press statement, “We’ve made it a goal to boost our savings accounts.” “The reserves are our emergency cash, and I’m keeping an eye on the economic forecasts, as I’m sure you are as well. Similar to your own household budgets, we will make adjustments if inflation has an influence on city spending.”
POLICE & FIRE
Tuesday afternoon, while speaking to the council in the city’s legislative chambers, the mayor stated that her budget proposal prioritizes money for police and fire services, calling it “our top priority.”
Stothert’s proposal involves a 4.6% increase in the OPD’s budget to $178.4 million while maintaining the same number of 906 sworn officers. In addition to absorbing the costs of the co-responder program as it transitions away from private funding, the department will be able to purchase the necessary equipment for communication with the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office and 911 emergency dispatchers.
The proposed budget also includes a 3.9 percent increase to $120.7 million for the Omaha Fire Department, an increase to 681 sworn firemen, and the return of Engine No. 2 to the downtown district. The budget also allows for the acquisition of land on which to construct a new fire station in the city’s northwest section, as well as the addition of a new medic unit and staff to service the northeastern area of Omaha.
She stated, “As our city grows, so do calls for emergency services.” We must have skilled employees and modern, safe equipment to give the greatest possible emergency response.
Additionally, Stothert’s budget proposal includes a 2.7% increase in spending for solid waste collection, bringing the total to $35.7 million. In addition, the mayor proposes allocating $18 million for roadway resurfacing, excluding projects covered by the Street Preservation Bond fund.
Her proposal also improves wages for seasonal employees of the municipal parks department, especially lifeguards; expands the city’s Way to Work relationship with The Salvation Army; and hires a homeless services coordinator.
The mayor also mentioned the city’s contracted fuel costs, which are $2.81 per gallon for gasoline and $2.77 per gallon for diesel.
Stothert’s budget anticipates an increase in property tax revenue of 6.25 percent, to $210 million. She stressed on Tuesday that the city’s property tax remained unchanged, stating that Omaha would “once again… not impose the increase that voters approved in 2020 to fund the Street Preservation Program.
She stated, “We are in the third year of this program and can continue without a tax increase due to good cash management and existing bond capacity.”
The restaurant tax revenue forecast in the mayor’s budget proposal increases by 10.97 percent, to $39.8 million.
“Restaurant tax revenue is a sign of epidemic recovery,” said Steve Curtis, city finance director, in a news statement issued on Tuesday. Customers are spending money at restaurants, which is beneficial for business and the local economy.
The city also anticipates a 7.27 percent gain in sales tax income, reaching $205.1 million.
The revenue plan also includes a $8 million budget carryover for 2020.
The mayor also emphasized the substantial increase in the city’s library budget to implement plans for a “world-class library system,” culminating in the construction of a new central library at 72nd and Dodge streets.
Stothert’s budget proposal also includes a 10 percent increase to $19.3 million for the library budget. In addition to funding the rent for the branch at 14th and Jones and the temporary administrative location at 84th and Frederick streets, the proposed budget adds positions and raises remuneration for part-time library personnel. It will also provide resources for the new branch in the downtown area.
As part of her Tuesday presentation to the City Council, Stothert included a draft of her $2.7 billion, five-year Capital Improvement Program, which includes long-term goals for transportation, public safety, public facilities, parks, and environmental enhancements.
Notable additions: $10 million for completing the RiverFront Parks, $20 million for the Central Library, and $306 million for the city’s streetcar plan.
With these community assets, we are committing to the future of Omaha, she stated in a press statement distributed after her presentation to council. Together with our philanthropic and business partners, our investments are providing accessible modern amenities that will enhance our community.
Have your say
The budget hearing will be held on August 16 at 6:30 p.m. in the city’s legislative chambers. The City Council will vote on the budget on September 13.