For $20 you can have it all.
That’s a line borrowed from a political insider, who wants to remain anonymous, about Mayor Chris Beutler’s two-year budget proposal.
Beutler wants to raise the city’s property tax rate by about 1.17 cents per $100 valuation, which is close to $20 a year on a $150,000 home.
For skeptical conservatives the line is pure sarcasm. City leaders won’t have to make any hard program cuts and can increase public safety staffing, but it will cost the average homeowner about $20 a year in higher property taxes.
For liberals, the line is a sigh of relief. For just $20 a year, the city can keep its traditional library, pool and other services, better maintain its parks and recreational buildings, plus increase spending for public safety.
Why not raise sales taxes?
If you’d rather see the city’s sales tax raised to bring in money for the proposed city budget, instead of the property tax, that’s not possible.
The state Legislature, which tells cities what they can and cannot do, has said cities can have a sales tax no higher than 1.5 percent for general revenue. Lincoln is at that maximum rate.
Actually a little higher. The state has said cities can add up to another half-cent to the sales tax, but only with a vote of the people. And the tax must be earmarked for a special project.
Lincoln voters have agreed to raise the city sales tax by a quarter cent for three years, to be used for a new emergency radio system, three fire stations and one police/fire station combination.
Require police, firefighters to live in city
Several times during budget discussions this week Councilman Jon Camp raised the issue of firefighter staffing. Firefighter-paramedics work 24-hour shifts -- 24 hours on and 24 hours off -- making it difficult to staff for peak medical emergency hours.
Camp wants that shift practice changed to traditional eight-hour shifts, which can happen only with union approval. The city would have to have some bargaining chip to get that change, said Public Safety Director Tom Casady.
Something else to put on the table? The city could mandate all police officers and firefighters live within the city limits, Camp suggested.
That would affect many of the public safety employees.
Right now 42 percent of Lincoln firefighter-paramedics live outside the city limits and 26 percent of police do, Casady said.
Water, wastewater fees going up
The proposed 5 percent hike in the water and wastewater fees will cost Lincoln homeowners, on average, about $25 a year ($2.05 a month) the first year and another $28 the second year of the two-year budget.
For the last two years the city water and wasterwater fees have increased 3 percent each year.
The higher 5 percent hike will allow the city to replace old water mains faster and push the wastewater system into the Stevens Creek, a new growth area, sooner.
Average Lincoln home price rising
Though this newspaper and Mayor Chris Beutler have been using $150,000 as the average home price in Lincoln, that’s no longer the case.
After last year’s property reappraisal the county's average home price (as assessed on tax records) rose to $163,450, and it will likely creep up to about $165,000 this year.
For a $165,000 home, the cost of that 1.17 cent property tax rate hike is $19.30 a year.
At $150,000, the proposed property tax hike is closer to $17.60.
Better security at City-County Building
People who come to the City-County Building for business will soon be greeted by a uniformed sheriff’s officer at the front door.
The uniformed officer is part of the beefed-up security for the building. Departments housed in that building will pay 50 cents per square foot more for greater security. That $135,000 will be used for the officers and for upgrades in security cameras and the security card system, according to Don Killeen, building administrator for the Public Building Commission, which manages many of the county and city buildings.