Omaha City Council Approves Annexation, Talks Budget with Public
By Ryan Robertson, KVNO News
August 12th, 2015

The Council recessed for several hours, meeting again at 7pm to hear from the public concerning the Mayor’s proposed 2016 budget.

Vicki Pratt spoke in favor of demolishing more condemned buildings. She told Council members it’s about more than clearing eyesores. “It’s also a safety issue in the neighborhood. A lot of the times those houses turn into crack houses. Kids get in there and there’s holes in the walls, there’s holes in the floor and it’s a very dangerous situation and it definitely impacts the property values of that neighborhood,” Pratt said.

The public’s budget concerns ranged in topic from truancy prevention to one man’s desire to take police officers out of public schools and hire private security guards instead. The majority of people who attended Tuesday’s meeting though, were there in support of the Omaha Public Library and its branches. The Mayor’s budget increased the library’s budget to $14.3 million dollars in 2016. But library officials said they need another $850,000. Without the money, officials said the library would consider reducing hours or closing a branch. Mike Williams told Council members the City has been on a downward slide in funding the library. “It’s such a problem that the Library Journal, which is a publication about libraries, unfortunately and notoriously put us on a short list of six cities who are underfunding our libraries,” Williams said. “This isn’t the kind of list that Omaha wants to find ourselves on. We don’t want to be on the lists of cities underfunding the public libraries. That’s not the kind of place we want to be.”

Doug Kagan is President of Nebraska Taxpayers for Freedom, a conservative group with concerns about what they call wasteful government spending. Kagan and other members of NTF, wearing “Team Jean” stickers in support of Mayor Jean Stothert, urged Council members to pass the budget as is.

“We believe that this budget sets the groundwork for future property tax stabilization or reduction, eventual elimination of the detested restaurant tax, and places the city on a permanent, steady financial foundation,” Kagan said.

More than 20 people spoke during the public hearing on the proposed 2016 budget. Council members won’t vote on it, however, until August 25th.

City council did pass the mayor’s budget: Melton, Pahls, Gernandt, and Thompson voted YES. Festersen, Gray, and Jerram voted NO. ​
Ntfnews153.doc. 8-15.

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