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(July 23, 2019)

Mayor Jean Stothert presented a General Fund budget to the Omaha City Council Tuesday that maintains a low property tax rate and prioritizes public safety and street repair. City department spending will increase only 2.2%. 

“The 2020 budget is the seventh budget I have prepared and recommended to the City Council for approval,” said Mayor Jean Stothert.  “We will continue to prioritize spending for the most important services we provide to the citizens of Omaha; public safety, infrastructure repair and maintenance, economic and workforce development.”

The General Fund budget is $419.6 million.  The All Fund budget is $1.1 billion.

The budget maintains the current property tax levy of 47.922 cents per $100 valuation.

“This is the seventh consecutive budget that our property tax rate was either lowered or left unchanged. I am very proud of this record,” said Mayor Stothert.

2020 Department Expense Highlights:

  • Increase the Omaha Police Department budget to $159.5 million
  • Increase the Omaha Fire Department budget to $110.1 million
  • Increase street resurfacing budget to $12.6 million
  • Add employees in street maintenance, sewer maintenance and housing inspections
  • Add funding for new Fall Cleanup and expanded Spring Cleanup and begin the public education and outreach program to prepare for changes in solid waste collection that will begin in January 2021
  • Maintain financial commitments to employment and job training programs; Step-Up, Way to Work and Heartland Workforce Solutions
  • Funding for qualifying community service programs that support Mayor Stothert’s strategic priorities including job training and workforce development, public safety, economic development and neighborhood improvement

The total General Fund budget will increase 4.58%.  This includes an accounting change required by the sale of the city-owned Omaha Hilton and the first year contribution to the Riverfront Revitalization.

The total cost of the Riverfront Revitalization is approximately $300 million.  Philanthropic donations will pay $250 million of the cost; the city’s contribution is $50 million, which will be paid in lease-purchase bonds over three years beginning in 2020.

The budget includes $1.1 million for the first year of debt service on those bonds, and the annual contribution of $4.1 million for park maintenance and operations budget, approved by the City Council in 2018. 

“We will get a great return on our investment,” said Mayor Stothert.

The accounting change resulting from the 2018 agreement for the long-term lease and sale of the Hilton Hotel to Freestone Capital is not new spending, and the taxpayers have no additional financial obligations.  Freestone pays the City $4.4 million dollars annually for the remaining bond payments on the hotel; the city in turn pays the bondholders.  This is a pass-through, listed in the budget for the first time.

The Planning Department will hire one additional housing inspector in 2020, which will increase the number of inspectors to ten.  Additional inspectors will be hired in 2021 and 2022 when proactive housing inspections required in the new rental registration and inspection ordinance begin. 

The demolition budget will be reduced to $800,000 in 2020, down from $1.1 million in 2019.  “We have made significant progress to improve neighborhood safety by tearing down condemned property, said Mayor Stothert.  “We have enough money to demo the properties that we estimate will remain on the list next year.”

There are currently 133 structures on the list, approximately 60 are expected to be torn down before the end of 2019.

Another area of significant savings is health care. Costs for active employees and retirees will be reduced by more than $1 million dollars next year.

“We are very close to achieving our goal of one city – one health care plan for active employees, with the exception of the Fire Trust,” said Mayor Stothert. 

The Fire Trust is the health care plan created and managed by the fire union, Local 385.

Revenue Forecast Highlights:

  • Estimated sales tax revenue increase 2.1% to $172.1 million
  • Estimated property tax revenue increase 6.6.% to $181.4 million
  • Estimated restaurant tax increase 1.7% to $34.6 million
  • 2018 budget carryover $5.7 million

Mayor Stothert also presented the recommended 2020-2025 Capital Improvement Program, which includes $1.8 billion in capital projects planned for the next six years.

Highlights of the CIP include:

  • Years two and three of the 3-year commitment for redevelopment of the Gene Leahy Mall, Heartland of America Park and Lewis and Clark Landing
  • Fire apparatus replacement program
  • Fire Station 31
  • New Southwest Branch Library
  • $ 308 million in transportation projects (2020-2025) including these projects in 2020:

30th Street Cuming to Ames

78th Street Mercy Road to Pacific

Crown Point-72nd to Blair High Road

168th Street-West Center to Poppleton   

“The Capital Improvement Program identifies current and long-term priorities in public safety, transportation and economic development,” said Mayor Stothert.  “Managing these investments is one of the most critical responsibilities we have at city hall.”

The City Council will hold a public hearing on the budget and CIP on August 13 at 6:30pm in the Legislative Chambers.

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