Omaha mayor submits city 2023 budget plan, calling police, fire services ‘top priority’

Proposal includes healthcare coverage increases, new homeless services coordinator
The city of Omaha is expecting big increases in sales and property tax revenues for 2023.
Published: Jul. 26, 2022 at 2:01 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Mayor Jean Stothert sent the City Council her $474 million General Fund budget plan — a 3.9% increase from 2022 — for the upcoming year on Tuesday.

The mayor’s plan increases healthcare coverage by 5.5% for city employees; the $75.2 million breaks down to $17,511 per city employee and $23,104 for firefighters.

It also puts the city’s cash reserves at $54.3 million.

“We have made it a priority to increase our savings accounts,” Stothert said in a news release on Tuesday. “The reserves are our rainy day funds, and I’m watching the economic forecasts, as I know you are, too. Like your own household budgets, we will adjust if inflation impacts city expenses.”

There's a lot of information to digest in the budget. Overall, the city budget in 2023 would grow by 3.9%.

POLICE & FIRE

Speaking to the council in the city’s legislative chambers Tuesday afternoon, the mayor said that in addition to key projects in the city, her budget proposal also emphasizes funding for police and fire departments, calling it “our top priority.”

Stothert’s plan includes a 4.6% budget increase for OPD, to $178.4 million, while retaining the same number of sworn officers: 906. In addition to absorbing the cost of the co-responder program as it transitions away from private funding, it also allows the department to buy equipment needed for communication with the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office and 911 emergency dispatchers.

The proposed budget also includes a 3.9% increase, to $120.7 million, for the Omaha Fire Department, increasing the number of sworn firefighters to 681 and reinstating Engine No. 2 to the downtown area. The budget also covers a new medic unit and staff to serve northeast Omaha while allowing for the purchase of land to build a new fire station for the northwest part of the city.

“As our city grows, the calls for emergency services increase,” she said. “We must have trained personnel and up-to-date, safe apparatus to provide the best emergency response possible.”

OTHER CITY SERVICES: Additionally, Stothert’s budget plan includes a 2.7% increase in spending for solid waste collection, raising it to $35.7 million. The mayor is also proposing $18 million for street resurfacing, not including the projects covered by the Street Preservation Bond fund.

Her budget also increases pay for seasonal employees of the city parks department, particularly lifeguards; expands the city’s Way to Work partnership with The Salvation Army, and adds a homeless services coordinator to the city’s staff.

The mayor also noted the city’s contracted fuel price of $2.81 per gallon, and $2.77 per gallon for diesel.

REVENUE FORECAST

Stothert’s budget estimates a 6.25% increase in property tax revenue, to $210 million. She emphasized Tuesday that the city’s property tax was unchanged, noting that Omahaould “once again... not implement the increase approved by voters in 2020 to fund the Street Preservation Program.

“We are in the third year of this program and can continue without raising the levy with good cash management and existing bond capacity,” she said.

The mayor’s budget plan does increase the projected revenue for the city’s restaurant tax by 10.97%, to $39.8 million.

“Restaurant tax revenue is an indication of pandemic recovery,” said Steve Curtis, city finance director, in Tuesday’s news release. “Consumers are spending money at restaurants, which is good for business and good for the local economy.”

The city is also estimating a 7.27% sales tax revenue increase, to $205.1 million.

The revenue plan also includes a 2020 budget carryover of $8 million.

CITY PROJECTS

The mayor also made sure to mention the significant increase in the city’s library budget to implement plans for a “world-class library system,” culminating in a new central library at 72nd and Dodge streets.

Stothert’s budget plan also includes a 10% increase in the library budget, to $19.3 million. In addition to covering the lease payments for the 14th and Jones branch and paying for the temporary administrative location at 84th and Frederick streets, the proposed amount also adds positions and increases wages for part-time library staff. It also will provide materials for the new downtown branch.

As part of her presentation to the City Council on Tuesday, Stothert also submitted a draft of her $2.7 billion five-year Capital Improvement Program, with includes long-term plans for transportation, public safety, public facilities, parks, and environmental improvements.

An addition of note: $10 million for the completion of the RiverFront Parks, $20 million for the Central Library, and $306 million for the city’s streetcar plan.

“We are making commitments to the future of Omaha with these community assets,” she said in a news release sent after her presentation to council. “Together with our philanthropic and business partners, our investments are creating modern accessible amenities that will improve our city.”

We have delivered the 2023 Recommended General Fund budget to the Omaha City Council. The $474 million budget is a 3.9%...

Posted by Jean Stothert on Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Have your say

The public hearing on the city’s budget will be at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 16 in the city’s legislative chambers. The City Council is scheduled to vote on the budget Sept. 13.

Read the mayor’s proposed budget

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