Omaha Public Radio News
1:30 pm
Tue February 16, 2010

Budget, pensions, green jobs major topics of Omaha Mayor's first State of the City speech

Omaha, NE – Omaha Mayor Jim Suttle says the city's financial challenges will continue in to the next fiscal year.

Suttle delivered his first State of the City address Tuesday morning. Omaha has an $11 million budget deficit this year and a pension plan that's underfunded by more than $500 million. Suttle used his first State of the City message to announce several initiatives and agreements, including:

-More public forums during next year's budget cycle. A series of public forums held last summer gave the public a chance to weigh in on the 2010 budget. Suttle wants to expand those forums so they'll be held both before and after the introduction of the 2011 budget.

-An agreement with the Omaha Police Association. The agreement freezes wages for 2009 and 2010, with gradual wage increases starting in 2011. The wage increases will be based on recommendations from the Commission of Industrial Relations. Suttle hopes a similar agreement can be reached with the Fire Union so the city can start meeting its pension obligations.

-An energy audit of 100 city buildings and retrofits to make them more energy efficient. Suttle wants a city-wide energy conservation plan. The city recently hired a Sustainability Coordinator.

-Plans to seek funding for a streetcar. Suttle says cities with streetcars have seen an expansion in their housing and economy. He says plans have been underway for several years on a streetcar, but it's time to act.

Suttle served one term on the Omaha City Council before being elected Mayor last June.