City of Lincoln set to approve $22 million 2019-20 budget
Part five: City wraps up General Fund discussions
Browne disagrees with Capital Project cuts

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[April 12, 2019] 


City treasurer Chuck Conzo led Lincoln aldermen through the $22 million plus 2019-20 FY budget on March 25th and April 2nd. Individual department heads spoke to the larger lines in the budget, including Street Superintendent Walt Landers for the Streets and Alleys department.

In the street department that line item is increasing from $843,951 to $935,909.

Landers pointed out some of the more significant increases within the budget. He shared that there are two intersections that will need upgrades in the traffic control devices. That line was increased from $55,000 to $90,000 for upgrades at Woodlawn Road and Union Street, also at Woodlawn and Heitman Drive. Landers added that 50 percent of the expense will be reimbursed by the state after the work is done. The city has to budget for the full amount, pay the bills, then the state will reimburse the city.


The tree and stump removal line is also increasing from $15,000 last year to $50,000 in the new fiscal year. Landers said the bulk of that increase was to cover grinding and cleanup work being done at the city’s landscape waste landfill.

Other than the street lights and landfill work, there were no other significant increases in the Street and Alley budget.

The only line left in the general fund budget was for health benefits. Conzo said that the insurances renew at various times, so he had estimated increases for the coverage. Actual coverage costs will come in later, but he felt that the percentage increases were sufficient.

City Administrator Beth Kavelman asked about the bidding process for the health insurance. She had been asked if the city bids out the health coverage. Conzo said the city is represented by Nancy Schaub, who does bidding on the city’s behalf. Kavelman then asked if the city bids out for Schaub’s services. There was no verbal answer to the question, but it appeared that Conzo indicated that Schaub’s services were not bid out.

Later in the evening, Conzo moved on to the Capital Projects special fund. This line item is funded by the city’s revenues from the Non Home Rule Tax and is used for specific expenses.

Within that line were expenses for street and sidewalk projects. Conzo noted he had included a new expense of $420,000 for the new construction of the Jefferson Street Bridge. There is also $30,000 budgeted for its design.

The Capital Projects line also includes expenditure for street repair as well as sidewalk improvements. Conzo noted that he had reduced both of those expense items from $500,000 in the current year to $400,000 for this coming year for street repairs. For sidewalks he had reduced the expense from $125,000 to $100,000.

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Heidi Browne said that she felt the city could not cut any money from streets and sidewalks. She said that she gets more calls about streets than anything else. She said that while she supports all the departments, the fact was constituents don’t care about new squad cars, they care about roads. Ron Fleshman said he agreed with Browne that road repairs could not be cut.

Conzo had earlier in the evening also mentioned that this would be a renewal year for the city’s General Obligation Bond. He had said that the city could issue the bond for roughly $500,000 for the next three years. The idea then is to expend the bond evenly across the three year period. That would equate to $175,000 per year. Conzo said the city didn’t have to spend that amount each year, and he certainly was not suggesting that they do so.

Now Tracy Welch spoke about the streets, agreeing with Browne and Fleshman and adding that it is hard for the city to justify the ‘nice to haves” when the roads need so much attention.

He told Conzo he thought the city should “get creative” and search out somewhere in the budget to make up for the proposed cuts to the street and sidewalk lines.

Welch said he understood Conzo to say that the city will have a new GO bond, but that it shouldn’t be used. Conzo said that was not the message he intended to deliver. The message was to not use it all at once. Conzo said he would look at increasing the transfer amount from the general fund and at transferring money from the GO bond to make up the difference.

In the revised version of the budget presented on April 2nd, Conzo had increased the street and sidewalk repair lines, bringing them back up to the previous year balances. He then increased transfers from the General fund from $250,000 to $325,000 and the transfer from the GO bond from zero to $75,000.

It should be noted also that Landers reported that the next big project on the priority list for the city is the reconstruction of South Kickapoo Street from Clinton Street to Wyatt Avenue. He said that project alone would take up the larger portion of this year’s budget for street repairs.

In the final update of the general fund lines on April 9th, the total for the new year comes to $7,421,155. Projected revenues for the general fund for the new fiscal year comes to $7,530,548, showing that the budgeted expenditures are well within the expected income for the 2019-20 fiscal year.

In the sixth and final segment of this year’s budget review on Saturday, LDN will provide a brief overview of all the special designated fund accounts.

[Nila Smith]

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