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Budget decisions next on table for Mayor Chris Beutler

Budget decisions next on table for Mayor Chris Beutler

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It was business as usual for Lincoln's policy wonk, Mayor Chris Beutler, the day after voters overwhelmingly gave him another four years in office.

The mayor had a full day of meetings, including a two-hour budget meeting and a discussion with department heads about the next four years.

Tuesday night's election was likely the easy part as Beutler and city leaders look for ways to survive federal and state funding cuts and the lingering effects of a deep recession on an already troubled budget.

Beutler, a Democrat, will handle these decisions with a council comprised of five Democrats and two Republicans.

"You know Democrats are like lawyers -- the more of them there are, the more difficult your life is," Beutler said before turning serious about the business of governing.

"There are very different kinds of Democrats," Beutler said, some very conservative, some less so.

But Beutler said he expects to maintain a working relationship with all council members, Democrat or Republican. And "they are all pragmatic, common-sense people, not ideologues."

City leaders will be working on exciting downtown projects: building an arena, finishing Antelope Valley, looking ahead to bringing in more jobs through Innovation Campus.

But the budget is the elephant on the horizon.

The mayor, already deep into budget analysis, said he expects to ask for a public discussion on some serious questions:

* Should the city make deep cuts in services or raise more revenue?

* Should the city have a limited roads maintenance and construction program or raise more revenue? This will include a discussion about using more bonds for roads building.

Beutler was circumspect about specifics on both the expense and the revenue side. He did not mention the "T" or "F" words -- taxes and fees.

"We know there will be serious cuts. Beyond that, we haven't quite got that far," he said. "But it won't be long before we will be talking with the community about what needs to be done."

And part of the discussion will involve revenue increases, he said.

"We will set out pretty clearly to people blocks of activities and point out that these will be the things that we cannot do, unless we have such and such a revenue increase," he said.

The city was facing a structural imbalance -- meaning expenses were outpacing revenues -- even before the recession that occurred one year and three months after Beutler took office.

Before he became mayor, city budgets were being plugged with "one-time funds or other manipulations," he said.

Beutler would like to "restore fiscal order" to the budget.

So this could be a season for unpopular options and difficult decisions.

Beutler is heading into his second term with strong support from the business community and a 65 percent vote of confidence at the polls over challenger Tammy Buffington.

So what's it like to be a popular mayor in the worst of times?

"I thought I'd try out being an unpopular mayor in better times," he said, referring to the tough decisions ahead and the probability the economy will improve over the next few years.

Reach Nancy Hicks at 402-473-7250 or


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Related to this story

Mayor Chris Beutler will be sworn in for his second term at 3 p.m. Monday in the City Council Chambers.

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