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Council approves $79 million budget

Outstanding redevelopment loans placed on July 10 agenda
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BY STEVE ARCHER

OF THE LINCOLN NEWS MESSENGER

A $79-million budget was unanimously approved Tuesday night by Lincoln City Council, which includes $18.8 million in General Fund operating revenue.

Also included in the budget are $20 million in special revenue funds, $4.5 million in capital project funds and $30 million in proprietary funds. The eight proprietary funds are water, operations; water, capital replacement; wastewater, operations; wastewater, capital replacement; solid waste, operations; solid waste, capital replacement; transit, operations and airport operations.

According to the budget, the city is expecting $18.5 million in revenue for 2018-2019, including $7.1 million in property taxes, $4.1 million in sales tax and $1 million in licenses and permits. The biggest expenses for the General Fund, according to the budget, are salaries and benefits, $11.5 million; operations and maintenance, $4.4 million; and allocation, $2.4 million.

Redevelopment loans

A conference with real property negotiators was removed from the closed session agenda and placed on the July 10 open meeting agenda. The negotiating parties are listed as Lincoln Brand Feed-Bill Falconi and Tri Counties Bank and price and terms of payment were listed as the items under negotiation. Loans were made in 2006 from the city’s Redevelopment Agency to rehabilitate the Lincoln Brand Feed Building.

A title report on the property shows $2.9 million in indebtedness, dating to Oct. 26, 2006, with the Redevelopment Agency of the City of Lincoln as the beneficiary. The title report also shows $5.6 million in indebtedness, dating to Nov. 3, 2008, with Citizens Bank of Northern California as the beneficiary.

In 2012, more than 400 redevelopment agencies throughout the state were dissolved.

Lincoln residents Tony Manning and Ted Jones, both members of L.I.F.T., or unified to lifting Lincoln to new heights through Integrity, Financial responsibility and total Transparency, criticized the council for not acting sooner on the outstanding loans. L.I.F.T. group members successfully sued the city of Lincoln over illegal water rates two years ago.

“It’s fascinating you guys wanted to do something on (this) in closed session,” Jones said. “Thank you for pulling it from closed session.”

Manning said he believed the loan amounted to a gift of public funds.

“I’m outraged, as a citizen of Lincoln, that I don’t see any outrage on the council,” Manning said. “More than $2 million in loans and more than $900,000 in accrued interest and no payments made in 10 years. Why haven’t we foreclosed on this loan?”

Lincoln City Manager Matt Brower said Wednesday the city has benefitted from the redevelopment loans being made, whether paid back or not.

“Most communities make a direct investment in their downtowns to see old buildings put into good use,” Brower said. “Lincoln has benefited immensely from that building being renovated and open. The city had hoped to be paid back. Obviously, that did not happen.”

Lincoln Mayor Stan Nader said the state Department of Finance took over all of the assets of the Redevelopment Agencies when they were closed. The Department of Finance would determine whether Lincoln gets any money back from the loans, according to Nader.

Steve Ambrose, Lincoln’s director of Support Services, said he was not aware of the details surrounding the redevelopment loans made. Ambrose could not confirm loan balances, payments made or any accrued interest.

Engineering duties

Tuesday was Brower’s last City Council meeting before he moves to Utah, and on the final agenda item for the night, he delegated some of the city engineering duties to Community Development director Matt Wheeler. City engineering duties regarding private development services will be handled by Wheeler and city engineering duties regarding public works and infrastructure will remain with city engineer Ray Leftwich.

The council unanimously approved the splitting of engineering duties between Wheeler and Leftwich.

Brower said the move was made to improve organizational efficiency and added there were four conditions to the splitting of engineering duties: Wheeler can not approve of any design exceptions, deviations from standards or any other modifications to adopted standards or accepted practices; Wheeler can not assign or delegate city engineering authority to any third party; Wheeler can not approve any final maps, parcel maps, lot line adjustments or any other survey instruments and Wheeler can not approve or revise city-adopted standards.

Jones disagreed with the change.

“I have real reservations about why you are doing this now,” Jones said. “Matt Wheeler has way too much power and he is not accountable enough.”