Mayor Stothert Presents Annual Budget to City Council
July 22nd, 2015
Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert’s proposed budget for 2016 is more than $817 million. At Tuesday’s city council meeting, Mayor Stothert presented her third annual budget to City Council members.
Mayor Stothert’s proposed budget reflects an increase of less than 2% over last year’s budget. Stothert said public safety is a top priority
“Our three year plan to fully fund 840 sworn police officers will be achieved. In fact, a total of 851 officers will be the revised number when we add additional neighborhoods to the city through the passage of the proposed annexation package,” Stothert said. 840 police officers will be the most Omaha has ever had.
Mayor Stothert said her budget also adds 15 firefighters to the city’s payroll.
In addition to public safety, the Mayor said street and road repair is her second priority. Under her proposed budget, another $1.2 million would be added to the resurfacing budget, bringing it to $8.8 million.
Even though the total proposed budget is slightly bigger than last year’s, Mayor Stothert said there will be no increase in property taxes or change to the restaurant tax.
“Reducing or eliminating the restaurant tax remains a goal for my administration. However, in developing budgets up to this point, I have placed a greater priority on property tax relief, building up the City’s cash reserve, improving the pension balances, and significantly increasing the number of Omaha police officers,” Stothert told the Council.
Mayor Stothert said her office worked closely with the City Council and other department heads while developing the budget plan, so no one should be surprised by what they find.
However, Mike Meyer, president of the Omaha Library Board, said the Mayor’s budget falls short in giving the libraries what they need to operate. Mayor Stothert’s budget does include an increased general fund appropriation of more than nine percent, bringing the total library budget to $14.3 million.
But Meyer said the libraries needs more, about $900,000 more—to cover labor and operating costs. Without it, Meyer said he’ll look into possibly closing a library location or reducing hours.
Stothert said the libraries will have to make do with the proposed budget, adding any more money they receive would have to come from some other city department.
“They are able to keep all branches open this year, all hours the same this year. And with over a million dollar increase next year, I see no reason for them to reduce hours or close down branches. If they feel like they need to, I would say they’re not managing their budget very well,” Stothert said.
Now that the Mayor has presented her 2016 annual budget, the City Council will have about a month to review it. A public hearing has been scheduled for August 11th.
Also during Tuesday’s meeting, Council members heard from an Omaha business owner, who wants to open a new Mexican food restaurant in the Old Market.
Jose Lieb was seeking approval to transfer the liquor license from his current business, the Aruma Lounge, to the restaurant he’s opening in the old Madria Sangria location on 11th street. You may recall, Madria Sangria was effectively shut down by the Council, after numerous complaints and alcohol violations.
During Tuesday’s meeting, Council members took issue with Lieb’s less than spotless record.
Councilman Garry Gernandt said, “Those of us who have been on the Council for a while, and those that are new know since you’ve been here, that I do my best to give every applicant one chance. Mr. Lieb, you were given yours, and in my opinion you blew it with four unfavorable police incidents. So I will not be supporting this application.”
Despite Councilman Gernandt’s “no” vote, the Council did recommend approving Lieb’s liquor license
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