Estep and Jatczak discuss Measure K at Democratic Club meeting

By: Stephanie Dumm, News Messenger Reporter
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Similar to what was done this spring before this year’s budget was adopted, the city is meeting with groups that request more information about Measure K. One example of this was last Thursday, when City Manager Jim Estep and Assistant City Manager/Chief Financial Officer Anna Jatczak spoke to about 30 members of the Lincoln Democratic Club about the utility users’ tax. The tax, which would have to be approved by residents in November’s election, would tax various utilities 3.75 percent to be used for police, fire, recreation and library services. The city entered into a $54,000 contract with consulting firm The Lew Edwards Group, which was to provide information about the tax to residents, according to previous News Messenger Reports. During the July 13 City Council meeting where the contract was approved, Mayor Tom Cosgrove pointed out that city employees can’t advocate for or against the tax. After spending $14,000 toward the contract, the city dropped the contract last week, and Jatczak said the city is “speaking to small groups of folks requesting” more information about the tax. This past spring, the city gave several informational talks to service clubs and community organizations about the structural deficit in the city’s General Fund. Jackie Lamb, a past president of the Lincoln Democratic Club and current program coordinator, said the club requested that the city speak with the group about Measure K. “We wanted to know more and we wanted members to be informed,” Lamb said. “There are so many rumors and we wanted to stop the rumor mill.” Estep gave an overview of the city’s financial situation using a slideshow similar to the one used during the Aug. 24 Measure K workshop, starting off with the General Fund forecast for the next five years with and without the tax. “On the five-year forecast, red is bad and black is good. It really doesn’t look good in the future with no new revenue,” Estep said. Estep pointed out that by fiscal year 2014-2015, the city would be in the red by more than $8 million. “The longer we wait to address it, the bigger it (the structural deficit) grows,” Estep said. If Measure K were to pass in November, the 2010-2011 budget would have a deficit of $235,000 in the General Fund, according to Estep. “With the proposed 3.75 percent, again, it’s not dramatic but it’s black, and black is what we’re trying to get to,” Estep said. He added that if the tax passes, the city would not lose four police officers. Jatczak discussed answers to some common questions about the tax with club members, such as how city staff arrived at revenue projections from the tax, who would be exempt from the tax and costs to administer the tax. Jatczak said city staff would absorb the cost of administering the tax for city utilities and other utility companies would not charge an administration fee to collect the tax. After last Thursday’s meeting, The News Messenger asked Jatczak if she considered mentioning that the city would lose four police officers in January if the measure doesn’t pass as advocating for or against the tax. “No because that’s what is in the budget,” Jatczak said.