Multi-million dollar surplus for 2010
January 20th, 2011
Omaha, NE – The city of Omaha has a surplus of $3.3 million for 2010. Thatâ€™s after a projected $12 million shortfall sparked a heated debate and three tax hikes to close the gap.Spending cuts, the elimination of 218 city positions and efficiencies in city departments helped lift Omahaâ€™s budget out of the red. Thatâ€™s what Mayor Jim Suttle emphasized at a press conference Thursday to announce the surplus for 2010. But there were significant revenue contributions too: in particular, a restaurant tax that took effect October 1st and has brought in $4.2 million, far more than expected. Asked how much of the surplus can be attributed to the tax, Suttle acknowledged it played a large role.
â€œOh it wouldnâ€™t be there,â€ he said. â€œBut it wouldnâ€™t be there also, if we hadnâ€™t buckled down and done some of the efficienciesâ€¦ like on the manpower in the fire departmentâ€¦ the hiring freeze, not filling positions.Â You have to take them all together. Thereâ€™s no one thing that did anything; they worked together like pieces of a puzzle.â€
Suttle said a surplus should be the goal of every budget cycle. Budgets are fluid, he said, and the restaurant tax was necessary to bring it back into balance and return the cityâ€™s AAA bond rating.
â€œThatâ€™s what Moodyâ€™s and Standards and Poor kept saying to us,â€ he said. â€œYou donâ€™t have real budgetsâ€¦ Theyâ€™re not saying that anymore. We have a real 12-month budget, and we have got that balanced.â€
The Mayor added the rhetoric surrounding the restaurant tax, which was a significant contributor to the recall drive to oust Suttle from office, never amounted to anything. â€œYou had all the rhetoric of people are going to go to Council Bluffs, Papillion, and Timbuktu,â€ he said. â€œAnd they have not.â€
Suttle said he plans to use the cityâ€™s surplus to shore up the cash reserves that were depleted after a series of tight budget cycles. Asked whether the city would consider returning the funds to taxpayers, the cityâ€™s finance director said that would be short-sighted. Pam Spaccarotella said Omaha is in a better financial position than many other cities, and itâ€™s the long-term, strategic planning thatâ€™s helped secure that position.
Mayor Suttleâ€™s announcement came a day before his State of the City address Friday, and just a few days before the recall election, set for Jan. 25.
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