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The City of Omaha and the Omaha Professional Firefighters Association Local 385 have reached a tentative agreement that will allow the Omaha Fire Department to reach its 2014 approved budget without layoffs. The agreement has reduced the size and number of future paramedic training classes.

  • We will delay the December 2013 class until January of 2014 and reduce the size of the class from 24 to nine students.
  • We will eliminate the June 2014 class of 24 students.
  • We will reduce the scheduled December 2014 class from 24 to nine students or a number mutually agreed upon by both parties.

By reducing the class size, more individuals will remain on shift to perform their firefighter duties, thereby greatly reducing overtime each day. This will reduce expenditures by approximately four million dollars and will put the fire department on target to reach its approved 2014 budget of $90.6 million dollars.

Both parties have also agreed to remove the language stating “no layoffs for the life of the agreement”. In exchange, the city has agreed it will not layoff any firefighters who were employed as of February 4th, 2013, until a new labor agreement is reached.  This includes the 19 probationary firefighters that have received layoff notices. The current contract expires December 20th, 2014 and negotiations for a new contract will begin several months from now.

The layoff protection will expire when one of the two following conditions occur:

1-A new labor agreement is reached for 2015, or

2- If an agreement is not reached by the deadline and the Commission of Industrial Relations issues an order for 2015 that establishes new terms and conditions.

Additionally, all fire department apparatus in service as of February 4th, 2013 will remain in service until a new labor agreement is reached, or there is a final order from the CIR, whichever comes first. This restriction does not include Medic Three, which was put in service in April of 2013.

“I remain committed to the taxpayers that the Omaha Fire Department will meet its 2014 budget of $90.6-million,” said Mayor Jean Stothert. “With the assistance of Chief Kanger and Local 385, we have reached an agreement to achieve exactly that.”

Interim Fire Chief Bernie Kanger said, “The reductions in the paramedic training program will have no impact on the services and level of care we provide to the citizens of Omaha.”

The next step is to have the proposed amendments to the contract reviewed by the Personnel Board and reviewed and voted on by union membership and the Omaha City Council.

Mayor Jean Stothert has made a new offer to the Omaha firefighter's union to avoid a January layoff and asked the union leadership to let the union members vote on the offer. "The union leadership can prevent these layoffs and they won't even let the members vote. I think the members should be given the opportunity to vote," said Mayor Stothert.

The City agreed Friday to Local 385’s offer to reduce the size of the paramedic training classes from 48 to nine in 2014. The City wants to reduce the size of the paramedic classes to keep the fire department within its $90.6 million 2014 budget. "This is unnecessary training," said Mayor Stothert. "It's a simple solution."

A financial analysis shows the Omaha Fire Department will stay on budget if the paramedic training class is no larger than 12. If the class size is not reduced, the department is projected to finish 2014 $4.1 million over budget. "It's a huge shortfall, not a manufactured budget crisis as the union leadership has described it," said Mayor Stothert.

In exchange for the smaller class, and as requested by the union, the City has also agreed, in writing, to treat all current members of the Omaha Fire Department in the same and equal manner as to their layoff protection, meaning the recruit class hired in February, will also be protected from layoffs. In an unprecedented move, Mayor Stothert’s offer includes an unqualified guarantee of no layoffs in 2014 and 2015. The 2015 no-layoff guarantee is no longer tied to the Omaha Fire Department’s 2014 budget performance. The previous no-layoff offer from the City required the Omaha Fire Department to come within one-half percent of its 2014 budget.

The City's offer now on the table also states, as of 2016, the city will have the unrestricted discretion to determine the overall staffing, daily staffing and staffing by rank for the Omaha Fire Department, including the right to layoff. That discretion reflects the prevailing practice of comparable Cities under the standards established by Nebraska Commission of Industrial Relations. Mayor Stothert says she will not agree to the union's demand that all firefighters will be protected from layoffs for the life of the contract, which could be indefinitely. The current contract allows the City to layoff for budgetary reasons. Probationary firefighters can also be laid off under the agreement ratified by the union in January.

The union has not responded to the Friday counter proposal. Mayor Stothert says she would like to hear from the union within a couple days. In the meantime, the City will proceed with the layoff of 19 probationary firefighters, scheduled to take effect January 4th, 2015. The 19 are part of a recruit class hired ten months ago. "They need to look to their union to save their jobs. The ball is in their court," said the mayor.

With hours to go before the Friday layoff deadline for 19 firefighters, interim Fire Chief Bernie Kanger says the path to saving those jobs is simple.  "Without modifying the paramedic training classes in 2014, we have no other options to meet the fire department's 2014 budget number.  It's absolutely impossible to make up the cost any other way. We need to eliminate unnecessary training."

The Omaha City Council approved the fire department's $90.6 million budget for 2014 in August.  A budget analysis prepared by the Finance Department projects the fire department to finish 2014 $4.1 million over budget. Earlier this week, Mayor Jean Stothert gave Local 385 until noon on November 8th to agree to revise its current contract, reducing the 2014 paramedic classes from 48 to 12. That change would save enough money to keep the fire department at budget.  As of tonight (November 7th), the union has not agreed.

Chief Kanger says the disagreement between the City and the union is not over the size of the paramedic training classes, it's about the union's demand to guarantee no-layoffs in the department indefinitely. "The union is trying to attach protections that weren't in place when the contract was ratified. The union's effort to extend the no-layoff provision will guarantee these 19 kids all get laid off," said Chief Kanger. 

The 19 probationary firefighters are part of a large recruit class hired nine months ago, after Local 385 members ratified the current labor agreement with the City.  The union wants layoff protection to apply to those firefighters as well as the 600-plus firefighters who were already on the payroll when the contract was ratified.  Mayor Stothert is not willing to do that.  The Nebraska Commission of Industrial Relations has ruled cities have the discretion to layoff employees for budgetary or economic reasons and Mayor Stothert says she not willing to give up that management right.

Chief Kanger adamantly disagrees with union claims that public safety will be compromised if the size of the paramedic training class is reduced. "Our city has not grown since the contract was passed ten months ago.  The city did not annex any new subdivisions this year.  Any suggestion that the city is bigger and will not be as safe is not correct," said Kanger.

The Omaha Fire Department currently has 241 trained paramedics on the staff.  That number will increase to 289 when firefighters currently in paramedic training complete the program.  Kanger says Omaha has more trained paramedics than other similar size cities, including Milwaukee, St. Paul, Minnesota, Des Moines and Tulsa.  Kanger calls training dozens of additional paramedics unnecessary, "We operate at a higher level than the national average for firefighters."

Kanger says the union has opposed every effort he makes to find savings in the fire department budget.  Those savings could prevent layoffs, but the union has filed grievances challenging his effort. The Chief says he is shocked at the actions of the union.

Mayor Stothert has agreed not to lay off any firefighters in 2014 and in 2015 if the fire department comes within one-half percent of its 2014 budget. She has also agreed not to take rigs out of service in '14 and '15, with the exception of Medic 3, if the fire department comes within one-half percent of the 2014 budget.

The city's labor negotiator Mark McQueen says the Friday deadline was set because the City is running out of time.  Negotiations started in July and have so far been unsuccessful.  Chief Kanger says his door is open and his phone is on. "I think there is a deal to be made out there," said Kanger.

It's not too soon to think about the first snow!

The Farmer's Almanac winter forecast shows a colder but drier than normal winter here in the Midwest. The first big snow of the season is forecast the week of Thanksgiving, somewhere in Nebraska or the Dakotas. If the forecast is right, the Public Works Department will be ready!

Omaha's odd-even parking system will remain in place on streets east of 72nd street during a snow emergency. However, after listening to feedback from people who live in those neighborhoods, the City will not issue parking tickets from 6:00 p.m. until midnight. When a snow emergency is in effect, after 6:00 p.m. you can park on the side of the street that will be in effect the next day. This will eliminate the need to move cars at midnight to the opposite side of the street.

This year, the Mayor's Hotline will also extend its hours whenever there is a snow that requires plowing. "I think its very important that anyone looking for information about snow removal can talk to a real person, not a voice mail," said Mayor Jean Stothert. On regular business days, the hotline staff answers calls from 8:00 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. "We'll stay until midnight if necessary on snow days," said the mayor.

The number to the Mayor's Hotline is 402-444-5555. Mayor Stothert will also use Facebook, Twitter and the city website to get accurate information out quickly. Public Works also uses Twitter and will keep it's regular phone number for snow removal questions, 402-444-4919.

Mayor Jean Stothert made a new offer to the Omaha Fire union Tuesday evening to avoid a layoff. The Memo, described as "the city's best effort to avoid the layoffs" sets a November 8th deadline for an agreement between the City and the union. If no agreement is reached, the January layoff of 19 probationary firefighters will proceed.

The City's proposal states that in exchange for a reduction in the number of paramedics to be trained, the union will be given assurances that layoffs will not take place in 2014. That protection will extend to 2015 if the Omaha Fire Department comes within one-half percent of its 2014 budget, set at $90.6 million by the Omaha City Council.

The Memorandum of Agreement includes:

  • The paramedic training class scheduled to begin in December 2013 will begin in January 2014 with the size of the class being reduced from 24 to 12. The paramedic training class of 24, scheduled to begin in June, will be eliminated. The 2015 paramedic training class scheduled to begin in December 2014 will be reduced to a class of 12, or a number mutually agreed upon by Fire Management and the union.
  • The City agrees that the Omaha Fire Department positions filled as of November 1, 2013 will not be subject to layoffs in 2014. If the Fire Department is within one-half percent of its 2014 budget, those positions will also be protected from layoffs.
  • Rigs in service as of September 23, 2013 with the exception of Medic 3, located at 3126 South 16th Street, will remain in service in 2014. Again, if the Fire Department is within one-half percent of its 2014 budget, those rigs will remain in service in 2015. A decision about Medic 3 will be made by the City and Fire Management.

In a letter to Local 385 President Steve LeClair, the City's Labor Negotiator Mark McQueen points out that the union's 7-point "Letter of Agreement" counter offer, provided to the City on Monday evening is not acceptable. "The union's offer would put unnecessary restrictions on our ability to manage and staff the Omaha Fire Department," said Mayor Stothert. "It's unreasonable to ask the City to give up its management rights indefinitely. I hope Local 385 agrees to the Memo of Agreement to prevent the layoff of 19 firefighters."

An analysis of the Fire Department's budget shows the department will be over budget in 2014 by $4,158,209.80 unless the paramedic training class is reduced or the City proceeds with the planned layoffs. The two options would provide equal cost-savings."I feel we have the community's support on this issue. The Omaha Fire Department is always over budget. Voters elected me to get the budget under control," said Mayor Stothert.

Firefighters with the least seniority received layoff notices this week as a result of the union refusing to agree to the staffing changes needed to meet the 2014 Omaha Fire Department budget. The 19 firefighters were hired in February 2013.

Layoff notices will be delivered to 19 Omaha firefighters beginning today, as a result of Local 385 refusing to agree to necessary staffing changes to the current contract with the City of Omaha.“These layoffs can be prevented if the union, through its leadership, agrees to reduce the size of the 2014 paramedic classes,” said Mayor Jean Stothert. “We will have over 300 certified paramedics by the end of 2014, nearly half the sworn strength of the department. Reducing the number and size of the 2014 paramedic training classes will not affect public safety.”

The fire department is $6.2 million over budget in 2013. The Mayor says it is imperative that the city meet the 2014 budget. Layoffs have always been under consideration as an alternative to meet the Omaha Fire Department 2014 budget, though not preferred.

Mayor Stothert agreed in writing, there would be no layoffs next yearif the union would agreeto reduce the size of 2014 paramedic training classes from a total of 48 to 12. The union leadership rejected the offer. The Mayor also made a written offer to extend the no layoff option through 2015, if the fire department stayed within its 2014 budget, set at $90.6 million. The union leadership rejected this offer as well, insisting on an indefinite guarantee of no layoffs.

The firefighters receiving layoff notices beginning today are probationary firefighters hired in February, 2013. The union contract allows for layoffs for budgetary reasons. The layoffs will be effectiveJanuary 4, 2014.“The 19 firefighters receiving layoff notices have been determined based on their ranking on the firefighter entrance exams, as required by the contract,” said interim Fire Chief Bernie Kanger.

“With the layoffs not being effective until January, there is still time to avoid them, if the union is willing to come to an agreement,” said Mayor Stothert.

Five months after taking office, Mayor Jean Stothert announced today she expects to end 2013 with a budget surplus. The 3rd quarter financial report released today shows a projected surplus of $5.6 million dollars.

In June, Mayor Stothert assumed responsibility for the 2013 budget. At that time, the budget was projected to be $13 million dollars short at the end of the year. A city-wide hiring freeze and careful expense management has led to the improved budget forecast.“This is excellent news for taxpayers,” said Mayor Stothert. “We have been able to turn around this budget without any cuts to the services people deserve and expect.”

Revenue Highlights:

  • A revenue shortfall for 2013 is projected to be $3.9 million. The major reason is the sales tax owed to the state of Nebraska under LB 775 and the Nebraska Advantage Act, the state’s business incentive program. Those payments are expected to total $15 million, nearly double the $7.8 million budgeted.
  • Building licenses and permits continue to increase, an indication of growth in the construction sector. The end-of-year projection for licenses and permits is $1.1 million over budget.

Expense Highlights:

  • Fire Department projected $6.2 million over budget*
  • Police Department projected $4.9 million under budget**
  • Public Works projected $1.3 million under budget
  • Retiree health insurance benefits projected $3.1 million under budget

The Contingent Liability Fund, with a balance a $5,297,891 will be used as a source of funding for the Fire Department to help offset the projected shortfall of $6.2 million.

“The hiring freeze and savings in health insurance are the significant factors in our favorable year-end results,” said interim Finance Director Al Herink. “The city is self-insured. We had fewer claims than expected, reducing our costs.”

The 2013 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.

*Fire is expected to be $3.3 million over in wages and $2.7 million over in benefits. OFD currently has 21 more firefighters than budgeted.

**Savings in the police department is attributed to open positions and other cost-savings measures. The police department has the largest civilian and sworn staff. A recruit class is planned in March 2014 to bring the sworn strength to its budgeted size, 804.

Mayor Jean Stothert has named a team of experienced city planners to lead the Omaha Planning Department.

Acting Director James Thele has been named Planning Director. Former Planning Director Steve Jensen will return as a consultant to the department. "I am excited to have Steve back in our Planning Department," said Mayor Stothert. "He is well-known and respected in the development community. Together, James and Steve will make a great team to move our Planning Department and city forward in a positive direction."

Thele has been acting director since June. Previously, he served in a number of positions in Omaha city government, including Director of the Mayor's Office of Economic Development in 1979 and later, as Assistant Planning Director. His responsibilities included managing the housing and community development program and administering federal and state grants. As Planning Director, his salary will be $140,000 a year, $40,000 less than the previous planning director earned under the former administration.

Jensen retired as Planning Director in 2009. He was hired as an intern in the Omaha Planning Department in 1972, and over the next three decades worked his way up to Planning Director, a position he held from 2005-2009.

As a paid consultant, he will earn up to $100,000 a year, without benefits. Jensen will also continue to receive his $114,000 annual pension. The Omaha City Council must approve his contract annually.

"I hope to help Mayor Stothert and the Planning Department move their priorities forward and address some of the issues that have come up over the last few years," said Jensen.

Thele said, "Steve brings a lot of continuity to the department. We have a number of priority projects he will assist with immediately."

Those projects include a review of the Urban Design code, the ongoing transit study with Metro Transit, Heartland 2050 and the 75 North Project.

Mayor Stothert reached out to developers and former city planners during the search for a permanent director to identify priorities for the department and the essential qualities for leadership. "I appreciate the honest input from the development community. The Thele-Jensen team is a result of their feedback and recommendations," said Mayor Stothert.

Mayor Jean Stothert will host a series of Town Hall meetings in October and November, one in each City Council district.

"This is another opportunity for citizens to tell me what is important in their neighborhoods," said Mayor Stothert. "I will to listen to concerns and suggestions and provide the best answers we can."

City Council members, the Mayor's Community Relations Team and her senior staff will also attend these meetings.


Thursday 9/24 6:30pm Benson Community Center District 1
Thursday 10/1 6:30pm Clair Memorial United Methodist Church District 2
Monday 10/5 6:30pm AV Sorensen Community Center District 3
Monday 10/19 6:30pm Christie Heights Community Center District 4
Thursday 10/22 6:30pm Mockingbird Hill Community Center District 5
Thursday 10/29 6:30pm Saddlebrook Community Center District 7
Monday 11/2 6:30pm Montclair Community Center District 6

The 2013 Charter Review Committee will meet nine times over the next two months to study the city charter and consider changes. The Omaha city charter requires a comprehensive review of the charter every ten years. The last review was in 2003.

The committee has 25 members. Each city council member recommended two members. Mayor Stothert named the remaining 11 and approved the entire slate.

Council Appointments:

Stephen Pedersen Recommended by Pete Festersen
Mark McColley Recommended by Pete Festersen
Timothy Butz Recommended by Ben Gray
Symone Sanders Recommended by Ben Gray
Patricia Zieg Recommended by Chris Jerram
Mark McColley Recommended by Chris Jerram
Jonathon Benjamin-Alvarado Recommended by Garry Gernandt
William Gaughan Recommended by Garry Gernandt
Robert Borgeson Recommended by Rich Pahls
Matthew Beiriger Recommended by Rich Pahls
Walter Peffer Recommended by Franklin Thompson
Ruth Ann Popp Recommended by Franklin Thompson
James Cann Recommended by Aimee Melton
Mike Kennedy Recommended by Aimee Melton

Mayor Stothert Appointments:

Brinker Harding
Patrick McPherson
Anna Hernandez-Valencia
Leonard Grasz
David Kramer
Stephanie Shearer
Wesley Siebert
Mary Jane Truemper
Carol Russell
Wayne Hudson
Christine Lustgarten

Amendments to the city charter can be proposed by the Mayor, council members and committee members. Final recommendations made by the committee need approval from the City Council and voters before the charter can be changed.


Tuesday, October 15, 20134:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Thursday, October 17, 20135:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Monday, October 21, 20134:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Monday, October 28, 20134:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Monday, November 4, 20134:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Tuesday, November 12, 20134:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Monday, November 18, 20134:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Monday, November 25, 20134:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Monday, December 2, 21034:00 p.m.to 6:00 p.m.

Charter Study Convention meetings are open to the public. All meetings will occur in the Omaha/Douglas Civic Center, 1819 Farnam Street,south cafeteria on the Farnamlevel.