The Omaha City Council is set to vote next Tuesday on the 2014 budget.
More than two dozen people spoke at a public hearing last week on the $340 million general fund budget. Mayor Jean Stothert's budget keeps funding in place for libraries. It allocates $124 million to the police department.
Doug Kagan of Nebraska Taxpayers for Freedom called the budget plan responsible and prioritized.
“This budget finally prioritizes with spending restraint. The public works budget trimmed the cost of handling materials in this department have dropped, yet an additional $750,000 for street resurfacing for much needed and demanded residential street maintenance. A prudent restraint on bond issuance. Total bond indebtedness is less. The city retains its triple A bond rating.”
Stothert's budget puts $90.6 million toward the fire department, which is less than officials requested. Fire Union president Steve LeClair says budget discussions are ongoing.
“There are some alternatives, there are some options, whether that be the prospect of a grant, the prospect of finding cost savings within the current operation of the fire department, or the prospect of increasing the current budget by a certain amount. But again, to that end, I do not want to see what I believe to be the inevitable result of laying off firefighters, and closing apparatus, and closing stations: a reduction in the services we provide to the citizens we serve, and a reduction in the safety of the people I represent.”
A lawsuit was filed against the city and Mayor Stothert over the fire department funding. According to budget documents provided by the city, the fire department responded to more than 1,800 fires and 29,000 EMS calls last year.
Several comments focused on a lack of funding in the 2014 budget for a sustainability coordinator. Rick Yoder, Chief Sustainability Officer at the Nebraska Business Development Center, says Omaha needs a sustainability coordinator if the city wants to grow and remain competitive.
“It loses to other communities in the region, whether it's Des Moines, whether it's Wichita, Kansas City, Saint Louis, Dubuque, Iowa, these are all places that have sustainability offices. And people make their decisions on whether the community they move to has a strong sustainability program.”
The 2014 budget also allocates money for 40 new police cruisers, and a recruit class next spring.