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Little changed in the city’s proposed budget plan during a two-hour Lincoln City Council meeting Wednesday afternoon, as council members offered their final recommendations to Mayor Chris Beutler's plan.

The council left one potential change on the table — a proposal to reduce the tax rate marginally by using any increase in city keno revenue in each of the next two years for property tax relief.

Rather than wait for the finance office to produce numbers, council members asked to have the keno information in time for the final budget vote Aug. 20.

Councilman Carl Eskridge argued that the city should retain its historic practice of using keno funds for parks, libraries and human-service needs rather than put any aside for property tax relief.

“This is a small amount of money, but an important amount of money for those organizations," he said.

The council agreed to move about $98,000 in the StarTran capital expenditure budget to use for additional bus shelters and benches.

The council, on split votes, decided to retain the same tax rate rather than reduce it slightly based on minor valuation fluctuations. It also voted against a plan to put some revenue from delinquent tax payments into the street budget. Both ideas came from Councilwoman Cyndi Lamm. 

Council members reaffirmed previous decisions, offered by Councilwoman Leirion Gaylor Baird, to use about $4.9 million in general fund cash reserves for one-time projects, including six police cruisers, new fire trucks and engines, and a $1 million challenge grant that would be used to attract private donations for major park renovations.

And they stuck to an earlier decision not to use the $4.9 million to reduce the fire/police pension fund liabilities, offered by Councilman Jon Camp. 

Several council members continued to voice their concern that using cash reserves is a dangerous precedent.

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"My biggest concern is that we try to do it again,” said Councilman Roy Christensen, adding he intends to be around to stop doing it in the future.

Lamm worried a future recession could push the fund below the level where property taxes would have to be increased to build the reserves back up.

Under a 2003 council resolution, the city should work to replenish cash reserves over time if the general fund cash reserve drops below 20 percent of the next year's general fund budget.  

The council will make a final decision on the two-year, tax-funded budget — totalling $205 million the first year and $212 million the second year — at its Aug. 20 meeting, which begins at 3 p.m. The proposed budget would retain the city property tax rate of 31.648 cents per $100 of assessed valuation.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7250 or nhicks@journalstar.com

On Twitter @LJSNancyHicks.

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Reporter

Nancy Hicks reports on Lincoln city government, but she’s been following the leaders of local and state government for more than 40 years.

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