On her first full day in office, Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert says paying for her own vehicle is the first step in balancing the city's budget.
Stothert showed off her new Ford Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid outside of city hall Tuesday afternoon. She plans to use the car for all of her city business. She bought the car herself and plans to pay for all of the car's expenses.
It's a first step that she is taking to balance the 2013 city budget which she says is projected to have a $13 million deficit by the end of the year.
“The '13 budget started out balanced,” Stothert said. “It's not balanced now. Jim Suttle had the budget for the first six months, and now I have it. And it's my responsibility. And when the end of the year comes, it will be balanced.”
She says she has already cut ten percent from the mayor's office budget, and is asking all of her other 11 city department heads to take a closer look at their expenses.
“Certain departments in our city have always run efficiently, always within budget or under budget. And I don't want to punish one department that is doing a very good job if we have other departments that are not.”
Stothert points to Fire Chief Mike McDonnell's department as one that needs improvement.
“There's no secret at all that the fire chief is eligible to retire. And I don't think there is any secret at all that I feel like the fire department could be better led and better run. It has been over budget for years. It's over budget already this year. And I think it's a matter of not being able to manage a budget in a department in a fiscally responsible way,” Stothert said.
The mayor went on to say that while she is asking the fire department to cut costs, she will not violate any labor contracts or compromise public safety.