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Citizen-crafted tax measure suggested Thursday

By: Stephanie Dumm News Messenger Reporter
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Resident Noreen Skillman was given the suggestion by Mayor Paul Joiner to write a tax measure during Thursday’s meeting of the city’s finance committee. That idea, along with recommended actions to balance the city’s General Fund and development services fund were given during Thursday’s finance committee meeting. Recommendations made at both committees will be presented to the City Council during their May 10 meeting, according to public information officer Jill Thompson. Agenda items for the meeting, and for the previous day’s Budget Committee meeting, included proposed actions to balance the 2011-2012 operating budget. Proposed actions include the lay-offs one fire captain and two fire fighters, six police officers and one community service officer and the elimination of one filled administrative support position and reducing development services director Rodney Campbell’s hours from full-time to part time, according to Assistant City Manager Anna Jatczak. Though both meetings talked about identical subjects, Wednesday’s budget meeting was remarkably more sedate than Thursday’s finance committee meeting. At both meetings, City Manager Jim Estep told councilmembers the purpose of the meeting. “The intent is to get feedback (ways) to balance the budget, the actions necessary to balance the budget,” Estep said. “What we are looking for is direction (from City Council) on whether to use any reserves or not.” Budget committee members are Councilmen Tom Cosgrove and Gabriel Hydrick, and finance committee members are Councilmen Spencer Short and Paul Joiner. Councilman Stan Nader sat in the audience during Wednesday’s budget committee. City departments discussed during the meeting were police, fire and development services. “There is nothing more to cut (for library),” Jatczak told The News Messenger. Present were Police Chief Paul Shelgren and Fire Chief Dave Whitt, who discussed how further cuts would impact their departments, but not before deciding who would talk first at both meetings by rock, paper, scissoring. “Rock is the only one I know,” Whitt joked, after losing to Shelgren two days in a row. With the proposed reductions to police staff, Shelgren said Thursday that the police department would be similar to 1993,when the city had 7500 people. Proposed staffing reductions in the fire department would mean two fire personnel per engine at time, according to Whitt. With two fire personnel on an engine, fire fighters cannot enter a burning building until two additional fire personnel get there, according to Whitt, unless there is a rescue. Skillman asked why there isn’t a non-profit group to provide funding via donations for the police and fire departments, much like Friends of the Lincoln Library (FOLL) does for the library. According to previous News Messenger reports, FOLL gives specific direction as to where funds raised by their organization goes to for the library. Skillman, Nader’s chief of staff, spoke as an individual about Measure K, a utility users’ tax the city attempted to pass this November to supplement the General Fund, which had a structural deficit of $1.7 million. That same deficit is projected to be between $1.5 and $2 million, according to previous News Messenger reports. “I truly believe that people would have passed Measure K if it had been more specific to where the funds would go,” Skillman said. Joiner suggested Skillman write a measure and submit it to the city. “If you believe that there is support for a revenue measure on the ballot, the public needs to create it and bring it forward,” Joiner said. Skillman said she would need help creating the measure. “Noreen, if you think that can happen, get a committee together,” Shelgren said. “Because that is the only thing we can do to save public safety.”