Suttle Addresses Omaha's Budget Shortfall

By: Nadia Singh Email
By: Nadia Singh Email

Increased taxes and fees, new taxes and fees, cuts in spending and a freeze on wages -- may all play a role in plugging a $5 million budget shortfall in Omaha. All of these options were discussed by new Mayor Jim Suttle at a Wednesday news conference.

Suttle told reporters, "our mission is, we must have cash flow in the city". While he noted the city needs more cash, Suttle did not endorse any single idea for fixing the problem.

"The city continues to face a looming financial crisis ... we must act now so that your city does not fall off the edge of the financial cliff", Suttle said.

One suggestion would be to save $3.5 million by freezing police and firefighter pay, but how easily that could happen is an open question because both unions have written contracts with the city.

In the case of the firefighters, the city is already under order from the Nebraska Court Of Industrial Relations to increase their pay.

Part of the trouble the city is in now is because former Mayor Fahey cut a deal with the unions in 2003 to solve a budget problem then. The changes embraced by Fahey and approved by the city council have added an estimated $42 million to the police and fire pension shortages.

Suttle did not discuss what inducements he might offer the unions to take a wage freeze, but he did tell reporters he has a plan for layoffs if the money cannot be found by other means.

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