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Mayor Jean Stothert | City of Omaha

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The fees, most dating back more than 35 years, have been required for a variety of business uses.  Revenue from these fees decreases each year.  In 2014, the total revenue was $60,306.00.  In 2015, it fell to $58,231.00. The fees were eliminated from the 2017 budget, approved by the City Council in August.  The Council will now take the next step to rescind the original ordinances that established each fee.

“Eliminating these fees will not impact our City budget in any way,” said Mayor Stothert.  “It makes sense to stop charging small businesses for things like vending machines, jukeboxes and video games permits.  In many cases, it costs more to enforce the ordinance and collect the fee than the revenue it generates.”

The following license fees (see attached list) are no longer budgeted:

Go Cart Track

Merchandise Vending Machine

Rental Hall 

Merchandise Vending Distributor

Theatre

Mechanical Amusement

Used Motor Vehicle

Mechanical Amusement Distributor

Auto Musical (Juke Box)

Pool Hall

Auto Musical Distributor

Express (delivery service)

Electronic Video Amusement            

Electronic Video Amusement Distributor

In some categories there are fewer than five businesses that are subject to the licensing fee.  In other categories, it’s not possible to identify every business that should be billed.

For example, the number of merchandise vending machines in Omaha is estimated at 4,500 but there is no accurate way to know how many businesses and retailers sell beverages, candy, toys and other merchandise from vending machines.  “Licensing fees should be fairly assessed and enforced.  Since we can’t do that in many instances, the right thing to do is eliminate the fee,” said Mayor Stothert.    

Other licensing fees remain in effect and are projected to generate approximately $80,000 in 2016. 

“Businesses that have a regulatory process in place, such as state permits, federal licenses or local inspections will still be assessed an annual fee,” said Finance Director Steve Curtiss.  “In many cases, the fee pays for the inspections that enable these businesses to operate.” 

 

2016 BUDGET SURPLUS GROWS TO $9 MILLION

November 10, 2016 - New budget projections show the 2016 fiscal year will end with a budget surplus over $9 million, higher than earlier estimates.  The third quarter report, released today, shows all city departments will end the year at or under budget.  Projected sales tax revenue is on budget, restaurant tax and motor vehicle taxes are slightly over budget. 

Taxpayers can be confident in our budgeting process.  No one likes surprises,” said Mayor Jean Stothert. “When you are spending the taxpayer’s money, you must correctly forecast revenues and expenses.  We have done both consistently for the last four years.”

End of year expense projections:

  • Omaha Police – even
  • Omaha Fire – under $392,429
  • Human Resources - under $27,128
  • Mayor’s Office – under $55,732
  • Public Works – under $166,150
  • Finance – under $194,502
  • Planning- under $99,320
  • Parks, Library, Convention & Visitors are expected to be at budget

End of year revenue projections remain unchanged from the second quarter report:

  • Motor Vehicle Taxes-$1.3 million surplus
  • City Sales and Use Tax- at budget of $149.4 million
  • Restaurant Tax - $1.6 million surplus
  • Utility Occupation Taxes - $2.8 million under (This is the telephone tax.  Revenue decline is due to decline in use of land lines)

“This report shows yet again that improving city services and reducing the tax burden can be achieved and still end the year with a surplus,” said Mayor Stothert. 

”My goal is to have a 2 or 3% surplus every year.  This prevents any changes or reductions in city services if revenue deficits occur during the year,” said Finance Director Steve Curtiss. “To ensure accuracy in our estimates, we constantly analyze local and national economic trends and apply that data to our real time finances.  Using this strategy, we have had a surplus each of the four years of Mayor Stothert’s term.”  

The largest savings continues to be in health care expenses, estimated at $7.5 million.  Actual  health care costs are below the national health care expense rates. The 2016 budget includes $63.5 million in health care expenses for current and retired employees.

As required by the City Charter, an end-of-year surplus must be carried over to the 2018 budget or used for cash reserve.  Surplus funds cannot be spent in 2016 or 2017.

 

BUDGET FORECAST SHOWS 2016 SURPLUS LIKELY

September 1, 2016- Budget projections show the City of Omaha 2016 fiscal year will end with a budget surplus estimated at $7 million.  

The second quarter report, released today, shows all city departments are expected to be at or under budget and projected revenues are slightly under budget.  “This report shows we are committed to managing your tax dollars carefully,” said Mayor Jean Stothert. “We have increased  funding  for the services our citizens say are most important, especially public safety and street improvements.  By running every department efficiently,  we are able to deliver and improve  quality services and still find savings.”

The expense report shows:

  • Omaha Police – under $332,059
  • Omaha Fire – under $231,330
  • Human Resources - under $108, 170
  • Mayor’s Office – under $46,097
  • Public Works – under $3,510
  • Finance – under $167,385               

The revenue report shows:

  • Motor Vehicle Taxes-$1.3 million surplus
  • City Sales and Use Tax- at budget of $149.4 million
  • Utility Occupation Taxes - $2.8 million under (This is the telephone tax.  Revenue decline is due to decline in land lines)
  • Restaurant Tax - $1.6 million surplus

Health care savings continues to be significant, estimated at $5.5 million.  The 2016 budget includes $63.5 million in health care expenses for current and retired employees.

A budget surplus has been reported in every year of Mayor Stothert’s term.  “We should always strive to end the year with a 2-3% surplus,” said Finance Director Stephen Curtiss. “In the last four years, we have not had to make mid-year cuts due to unforeseen expenses or revenue deficits.  Those cuts often disrupt city services and affect taxpayers and employees.”

As required by the City Charter, an end-of-year surplus must be carried over to the 2018 budget or used for cash reserve.  Surplus funds cannot be spent in 2016 or 2017.

 

PUBLIC SAFETY, STREET REPAIRS AND TAX CUT HIGHLIGHT MAYOR STOTHERT'S 2017 BUDGET

August 23, 2016 - A property tax rate reduction, a record high number of police officers, and a significant increase in spending for street repairs; those are the highlights of Mayor Jean Stothert's 2017 budget. The City Council passed the budget Tuesday, adding slightly over $100,000 for programs that support youth and re-entry services.

"It's a good, solid budget.  We're adding more money for police officers and public works and still lowering taxes," said Mayor Jean Stothert. "Most people tell me, 'Lower my taxes, keep me safe and fix my streets'.  We are showing taxpayers we are spending their money well and controlling spending."

The Council added $20,000 to support the PACE program.  Police Athletics for Community Engagement is a program started by the Latino Peace Officers Association in 2005.  Current and retired Omaha police officers volunteer to coach sports teams and steer young players away from gangs and crime. 

The ReConnect program will receive $40,000.  ReConnect had previously received $18,500 from Mayor Stothert.  The program provides re-entry services for youth and adults.

An additional $62,880 was approved for a day camp in south or south central Omaha.  During the Mayor's first term, day camps have opened at Zorinsky and Benson parks, in addition to the very successful Hummel Day Camp.

Mayor Stothert supports all three amendments and will not veto the council actions. "I'm very pleased.  With a total fund budget over $900 million, there were just three amendments.  We have worked with council members to get their bipartisan support and I think this shows our process works."

The two percent proposed property tax rate cut is the Mayor’s second cut in three years. The City's total levy is just under 48 cents.  "Every penny counts," said Mayor Stothert. 

The 2017 General Fund budget increase is less than 3%, totaling $369.6 million, compared to $358.9 million this year.

Budget highlights include:

  • Hire additional police officers increasing the total number to 860, the highest number of officers in OPD history.  With this increase, Mayor Stothert and Police Chief Todd Schmaderer have exceeded their three-year staffing goals. The next three-year staffing plan and a fifth police precinct is now being discussed.
  • A 2017 firefighter recruit class
  • Add $2 million  to the street resurfacing fund for a total of $10.8 million.  The appropriation for residential brick street repair will also increase from $400,000 to $500,000.
  • Add 16 employees in the Public Works Street Maintenance Division for snow removal, pothole repair and street construction, repair and maintenance.
  • Increase demolition budget by $100,000 for a total now over $1 million.  Hire an additional housing inspector.
  • Increase Omaha Public Library Budget 5%. All library branches will remain open, no service or program cuts. The increase includes technology upgrades and an RFID system. Radio frequency ID tags on every item available  for  checkout  will improve customer service, inventory and maintenance of the library collections.
  • Expand the use of Acella software in the Planning Department, which has already improved the process and reduced wait times for permit applications and plan reviews.
  • Add an Acella Analyst to ensure we are taking full advantage of the customer-service tools Acella offers.
  • Funding for tree-trimming crew and equipment for Emerald Ash Borer Response Plan.
  • Add one-million dollars annually for the next four years to the Capital Improvement Plan to treat,  remove  and replace trees on public property.

Projected revenues in 2017 include:

  • Property Tax:       $149.7 million
  • Sales Tax             $155.9 million
  • Restaurant Tax    $31.1 million
  • Wheel Tax            $11.7

The restaurant tax is projected to increase 6% next year.

“As we prepared this budget, I again considered a reduction in the restaurant tax. I made the decision  to pursue another property tax rate cut instead,” said Mayor Stothert.  “Everyone who owns property in Omaha pays property tax and will benefit from another tax rate cut.  It is broad-based  and fair. Reducing the restaurant tax remains a goal of my administration."

 

MAYOR RECOMMENDS 2017 PROPERTY TAX RATE CUT

July 19, 2016 - Public safety, street repair and another property tax rate cut highlight Mayor Jean Stothert’s 2017 proposed city budget.

“The question we’ve  asked  is, can we reduce the property tax rate again and still meet our obligations to the taxpayers for public safety, infrastructure improvements, and city services?”, said Mayor Stothert.  “To that, our answer is yes!”

The two percent proposed property tax rate cut is the Mayor’s second cut in three years. 

Mayor Stothert explained the tax rate cut is possible due to prudent management, a strong economy, a growing city, strong prior-year carryovers,  department spending that is on or under budget and the recent ruling by TERC, the Tax Equalization and Review Commission,  which will result in higher than  expected  property  tax  revenues to the city, approximately $3.7 million.

“Most of this revenue will be returned to taxpayers in the form of a property tax rate cut. The rest will go to street improvements,” said Mayor Stothert. 

The 2017 General Fund budget increase is less than 3%, totaling $369.6 million, compared to $358.9 million this year.

Budget highlights include:

  • Hire additional police officers increasing the total number to 860, the highest number of officers in OPD history.  With this increase, Mayor Stothert and Police Chief Todd Schmaderer have exceeded their three-year staffing goals. The next three-year staffing plan and a fifth police precinct is now being discussed.
  • A 2017 firefighter recruit class
  • Add $2 million  to the street resurfacing fund for a total of $10.8 million.  The appropriation for residential brick street repair will also increase from $400,000 to $500,000.
  • Add 16 employees in the Public Works Street Maintenance Division for snow removal, pothole repair and street construction, repair and maintenance.
  • Increase demolition budget by $100,000 for a total now over $1 million.  Hire an additional housing inspector.
  • Increase Omaha Public Library Budget 5%. All library branches will remain open, no service or program cuts. The increase includes technology upgrades and an RFID system. Radio frequency ID tags on every item available  for  checkout  will improve customer service, inventory and maintenance of the library collections.
  • Expand the use of Acella software in the Planning Department, which has already improved the process and reduced wait times for permit applications and plan reviews.
  • Add an Acella Analyst to ensure we are taking full advantage of the customer-service tools Acella offers.
  • Funding for tree-trimming crew and equipment for Emerald Ash Borer Response Plan. Add one-million dollars annually for the next four years to the Capital Improvement Plan  to treat, remove and replace trees on public property.

Projected revenues in 2017 include:

  • Property Tax:      $149.7 million
  • Sales Tax            $155.9 million
  • Restaurant Tax     $31.1 million
  • Wheel Tax           $11.7

The restaurant tax is projected to increase 6% next year.

“As we prepared this budget, I again considered a reduction in the unpopular and unfair restaurant tax. I made the decision  to pursue another property tax rate cut instead,” said Mayor Stothert.  “Everyone who owns property in Omaha pays property tax and will benefit from another tax rate cut.  It is broad-based,  and fair.

The  2017  recommended budget  is  available  on  the city’s website: http://finance.cityofomaha.org/images/stories/pdfs/2017_Recommended_Budget_FINAL_FINAL_Web_Version.pdf

The City Council public hearing on the budget is August 9 at 7:00 p.m. in the Legislative Chambers at 1819 Farnam.  The Council is scheduled to vote on the budget August 23.

 

2015 BUDGET PROGRESS REPORT SHOWS SURPLUS

The City of Omaha 2015 second quarter financial report projects a year-end surplus of $2.4 million dollars, due in part to expense savings and higher than expected sales tax revenue.

The report, released today, shows expenses are $1,628,169 under budget , revenues are $782,603 over budget.  Several City departments are under budget for the year, including the Omaha Public Library and the Omaha Police Department.

“This mid-year surplus shows we can find savings without compromising services to our taxpayers,” said Mayor Jean Stothert. “We are running every department efficiently.”

Specifically, the second quarter expense report shows:

  • Library-$0.37 million under budget
  • Omaha Police Department-$0.37 million under budget
  • Omaha Fire Department-$0.40 million over budget
  • Public Works-$0.40 million over budget  (due to declining revenue from recycling)

The revenue report shows:

  • Motor Vehicle Taxes-$0.55 million surplus
  • City Sales and Use Tax-$1.56 million surplus
  • Utility Occupation Taxes-$1.0 million under  (This is the telephone tax.  Revenue decline is due to decline in land lines)

"This surplus is less than 1% of our total general fund budget,” said Finance Director Steve Curtiss.  “We always want to have a 1-2% surplus as a cushion. There’s a lot of year left.”

 The 2014 General Fund Budget is $350,254,923.

 

CITY COUNCIL PASSES MAYOR'S 2016 BUDGET WITHOUT ANY CHANGES 

Mayor Jean Stothert’s 2016 budget prioritizes spending on public safety and street repair, without any additional taxes or fees for Omaha taxpayers.  “Of our three budgets I have done, I believe this is the strongest,” said Mayor Stothert.

Mayor Stothert presented the budget to the City Council in July, outlining five goals: maintain the lower property tax rate passed in 2015, slow the growth of the general fund, build the Contingent Reserve Fund and Cash Reserve, and increasing the budgets for street maintenance and repair and public safety.  

“The 2016 budget increases funding to continue our three-year strategic staffing plan to bring the number of police officers to an all-time high,” said Mayor Stothert. “This is just one of many commitments Chief Schmaderer and I have made to improving public safety, and we’re not done yet. We are already looking at 2017 and 18, so we are prepared for the public safety needs of our growing city.”

The 2016 budget also funds fifteen additional firefighters. 

The City Council passed the budget without making any changes.  Council President Ben Gray and Vice-President Chris Jerram voted no after amendments to increase library funding and spending on road resurfacing failed.

BUDGET HIGHLIGHTS:

  • General fund spending increase of 1.85%, the smallest year-over-year percentage change in last three budgets
  • Funding to bring OPD authorized strength to 840 officers.  (total increase to 851 after annexation) Also hire six additional employees in the Crime Lab to prepare for accreditation
  • Fire recruit class in 2016, increasing sworn strength by 15 firefighters to 657; the first recruit class since 2012
  • Five additional inspectors in the Planning Department
  • Fully fund Human Rights and Relations Department with the first full-time Director in several years and two additional staff members, including a compliance officer to oversee the City’s economic inclusion plan
  • Continue increasing street resurfacing budget.  Add $1.2 million in 2016 up to $8.8 million; includes asphalt, concrete and brick streets.  (Funded with a variety of sources, but not General Fund)
  • Contingent liability and cash reserve funds will be at highest combined amounts ever totaling $12.15 million
  • Increase General Fund appropriation to the Library 9.27%, one of the highest General Fund department increases.  The Library total budget increase is 2.7% due to reduced funding from other sources
  • Add $1.2 million to Parks Department for maintenance equipment, including high capacity mowers.  Mowing capacity increases to 700 acres of parks and public property weekly.  Funded through lease purchase bonds and capital improvement budget
  • Over $1 million for workforce development and training; includes $130,000 to Greater Omaha Chamber REACH program, $440,000 to Heartland Workforce Solutions and for the second year, $500,000 to STEP-UP Omaha Summer Jobs Program.
  • All department budgets except Police include wage and benefits increases negotiated in current contracts.  Approximately $5 million held in Wage Adjustment Account pending contract agreement with Omaha Police Officers Association.  Labor costs account for approximately 80% of the General Fund budget.  Having labor contracts in place gives the budget greater stability
  • Increase funding to Convention and Visitors Bureau by $200,000, as required by the Omaha-Douglas County Interlocal Agreement

The net General Fund revenue projection for 2016 will increase 2.8% over the 2014 actual revenue and 1.85% over the projection for 2015.  Property tax and sales tax are both projected to increase 3.4% over 2015 collections.  The restaurant tax is projected at $29 million, flat compared to the current year.

Mayor Stothert is not proposing a change in restaurant tax in 2016.  “My view of the restaurant tax is unchanged since I voted against it as a councilmember five years ago.  Reducing or eliminating it remains a goal of my administration,” said Mayor Stothert. “However, in developing budgets to this point, I have placed a greater priority on property tax relief, building our cash reserves, improving pension fund balances and significantly increasing the number of Omaha police officers.”  

 

CITY COUNCIL PASSES 2015 BUDGET    

September 9, 2014- The Omaha City Council passed the 2015 budget Tuesday, overriding only one veto. The Council added $175,000 for library materials, taking the money from the city’s contingency reserve fund.

The Council was not able to override the Mayor’s vetoes on budget amendments for a Complete Streets Active Living Manager, a sustainability contract and exhibits for the Great Plains Black History Museum.  Those amendments were all funded with money from the contingency reserve fund, which the Mayor opposed.

In August, after the Mayor’s recommended budget was delivered to the City Council, the Douglas County Assessor revised the total property valuation for the City of Omaha, resulting in an $800,000 increase to the general fund.  Mayor Stothert asked the Council to put half of the money into contingency reserve and half into the 2015 street repair budget, addressing criticism from City Council Vice-President Ben Gray and community members about the condition of streets in north and south Omaha.

“If we have unexpected revenue, I have always said we should save it, pay down our debt or return it to the taxpayers,” said Mayor Stothert.  “In this case, I did suggest additional spending on street repairs to address the specific concerns raised by Councilman Gray at a news conference, at a City Council meeting and during a meeting with me.”

The Mayor’s recommended budget increased the contingency and cash reserve funds to a historic high.  The final budget passed by the City Council today includes a reduction in the city’s savings account.

The Council voted 5-2 to override the Mayor’s veto of the library amendment. The Mayor’s recommended 2015 budget, including all funding sources, slightly increased funding for the library.  “The library is well-funded,” said Mayor Stothert. “Every director can overspend a line item in the department budget, so if the Library Director wants to buy more materials, he can. The budget just needs to balance at the end of the year.”

The amended total budget, passed by the Council includes the Mayor’s property tax rate cut, the first in the city in 14 years. The Mayor called the vote “very positive” for the City and shows the 2015 budget is fiscally sound. 

 

MAYOR STOTHERT PROPOSES TAX RATE CUT IN 2015

July 22, 2014 - Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert proposed the 2015 budget Tuesday, including a property tax rate cut, the first cut since 2001. 

“Every property owner benefits from this tax rate cut,” said Mayor Stothert. “Most people tell me they want property tax relief.  This is the fiscally responsible thing to do.” The reduction will result in citizens paying about two million dollars less in property taxes next year.

The Mayor set three goals for the 2015 budget: tax relief, increase the cash reserve fund and pay down the debt.  This budget achieves all three.

The budget proposal adds $750,000 to cash reserve, resulting in a $6 million balance; a record high. The contingent liability fund will be increased by $650,000, increasing the fund to $1.9 million dollars.  Overall general fund spending would increase 2.3% over the current year, including slight increases in the fire and police department budgets. The police budget includes hiring 21 additional officers in 2015. 

“This important enhancement to our crime fighting efforts will result in budgeting for 825 sworn officers for our city in 2015.  It also approaches my long-term goal of 840 sworn officers, which we will achieve in 2016. We must continue the progress we are making to reduce violent crime. The personal safety of all citizens is without a doubt, our most important responsibility.” 

Budget highlights include:

  • 21 additional police officers
  • Continued funding for the neighborhood grant program and significantly increased funding for neighborhood alliance support
  • A large increase in funding for the Step-Up summer jobs program
  • Additional funding for our convention and tourism efforts to increase promotion, attract more visitors, and build on the reputation we have as a great city for regional and national sports and other events
  • City parks, swimming pools, and libraries will remain open with no change in hours
  • Increased street resurfacing budget by $200,000 to a total of $7.1 million
  • The budget for brick street repair will be doubled
  • Maintain nearly $1 million dollars in demolition and fill nine positions for building inspectors
  • An initial investment of 150-thousand dollars for an Omaha Land Bank

OMAHA 2013 CITY BUDGET REBOUNDS IN 4TH QUARTER

February 21, 2014 - Omaha's preliminary 4th quarter financial report shows a significant economic turnaround for the City and the taxpayers.  After inheriting a $13 million budget shortfall in June, Mayor Jean Stothert has led the city to a $10 million surplus.  The surplus can be attributed to revenue increases and expense reductions. "Turning the deficit into a $10 million surplus was difficult.  Every city department worked hard to accomplish this savings," said Mayor Stothert.  "This was achieved through a variety of cost-saving measures, including a hiring freeze, delayed purchases and generally doing more with less.  At the same time, we maintained or improved city services."

Every city department except fire is projected to end the year under budget.  The fire department is still projected to be $6.2 million over budget; $5.3 million from the Contingent Liability Fund will be used to fund the fire department in 2013.  This will allow the fire department to end the year only $0.9 million over budget in the general fund.

General fund revenues made a significant comeback in the fourth quarter.  Led by an increase in building permits and licenses, general fund revenues are now expected to be only $0.6 million under budget for the year.  "Sales tax collections in the 4th quarter were over budget and building permit fees for the year exceed the budget by 57%.  Both are strong indications of an improving local economy," said Finance Director Steve Curtiss.

The final 2013 financial report is expected in June after an annual audit.  The surplus will be carried forward to 2015, as required by the City Charter.  It cannot be used in 2014 since that budget has already been approved by the City Council.  "Taxpayers can expect us to manage the city budget carefully and responsibly," said Mayor Stothert.

MAYOR STOTHERT PROPOSES BUDGET WITHOUT A TAX INCREASE

Mayor Jean Stothert presented a balanced budget to the Omaha City Council on July 23rd delivering on her promise not to raise property taxes.

"We really worked hard with the departments on this budget to find efficiencies," said Mayor Stothert. "When you're spending the people's money, every budget should be hard."

After taking office in June, Mayor Stothert gave each department director a revised budget target number, to eliminate an anticipated $20 million gap between revenue and the original department budget requests. She gave each director just two guidelines, do not violate labor agreements and do not jeopardize public safety.

"Every department got to their target number except fire. Fire continues to be a challenge. I will not raise property taxes to fund the fire department," said Mayor Stothert.

The final Fire Department budget is $90.6 million, an increase over 2013. "My 2014 budget goals for this department were to stop the overspending and provide the department a budget that was realistic; one that could be achieved with strong management and diligent oversight," said Mayor Stothert.

The Mayor has suggested three options to reach that number. Each option includes layoffs, demotions and taking rigs out of service. The Mayor continues to work with fire management and the union on alternatives to those options. "My ears are open", said Mayor Stothert.

Highlights of the 2014 budget include:

  • A 3.3% increase in general fund revenue and expenses.
  • Sales tax revenue is expected to be flat.
  • Property tax revenue is forecast to decrease.
  • The restaurant tax is estimated to generate $27.7 million in 2014, up 8% over 2013.
  • LB 775 and LB 312 (NE Advantage Act) payments projected to increase to $12 million, compared to $7.5 million budgeted in 2013.
  • Health care costs will increase to $59.5 million, up over $5 million (7%) from 2013.
  • All libraries will remain open; library hours will not be cut.
  • Additional funding for street resurfacing - $750,000.
  • Additional funding for demolition – Nearly $1 million.
  • Police recruit class in early 2014 to achieve full sworn strength of 804.
  • Replacement of police radios.

In an address to the Omaha City Council Tuesday, Mayor Stothert said, "As a former council member, I respect the important job you now have to scrutinize the budget and make changes you believe are important. You will find your ideas and creative thinking are welcome, and I look forward to working with you in the weeks ahead."

Mayor Stothert will begin work on the 2015 budget immediately. Priorities will include getting all city unions to agree to one health care plan, which will result in significant savings, gradually increasing the number of sworn police officers and tax reductions.

2014 Budget