Council Considers Spending Changes

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The news from the mayor on the 2013 budget numbers came just as several council members were talking about changes to her proposed budget next year.

The mayor's budget does several things but her cornerstone is giving some money back to homeowners.

On Wednesday, she explained her litmus test to council members proposing alternatives: taking away the property tax cut from the budget is a deal-breaker.

Mayor Stothert said, “If any amendments don't include a property tax reduction like I proposed, I would veto it. Even though some say it's so modest it is something."

So far only councilman Ben Gray is proposing to do away with the property tax cut entirely saying the city has plenty of other priorities it should focus on instead. His plan will be discussed first on Tuesday.

Next up is councilman Garry Gernandt who is proposing a smaller property tax cut and taking $800,000 to hire even more police officers than the mayor has proposed -- eight additional officers to help beef up response times.

Gernandt said, “You'll still have the best of both worlds there. There will be some tax relief and be an increase in the number of officers that our police chief really alluded to in his testimony."

Councilman Chris Jerram has three amendments. None of them touch the mayor's property tax cut. One would restore $175,000 to the Omaha Public Library System to buy more materials. Another plan would add a transportation person to Public Works at a cost of $60,000. The third amendment adds $100,000 to begin fixing alleys in the city.

Jerram said, "In terms of the financial side they are modest. In terms of the policy goals of the city I would say they are more significant.

The council will vote on all this Tuesday.

With the afternoon dialogue with the council simmering, the dialogue took to the road Wednesday night as the mayor spoke with Nebraska Taxpayers for Freedom.

She discussed the budget at the group's monthly meeting held inside the Millard Library and stressed how maintaining all government departments is important for public safety including the police department and increasing the number of officers.

The mayor said, “Now will it cost a lot? Yes it will. But is it important and a priority? Yes it is. And we will reduce the budget in other ways so that that budget doesn't keep on growing and growing.”

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