The push for contracting public services

Committee says roll back services to match revenue
By: Stephanie Dumm News Messenger Reporter
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Contracting out police, fire and dispatch services were discussed during the General Fund and development fund portion of Friday’s fiscal sustainability committee meeting. Larry Whitaker, General Fund subcommittee chairman, said he did not recommend “raising taxes” to support the General Fund. “Does Lincoln deserve more money? Do they need more money to run the city? Absolutely,” Whitaker said. “Why do I recommend not trying it? Because it won’t pass. Something has got to happen now and we can’t depend on the taxes.” Whitaker recommended “rolling back services until they match your revenues.” He also said the city has a “rural income.” “The thing I want to put in your mind is this is a rural income with an urban set of people who have moved in,” Whitaker said. “They want urban services but we have a rural pocketbook.” Whitaker said that Lincoln has “a rural town income.” “We get $250 (per year) to run this city for every man, woman and child,” Whitaker said. “We do not have a big urban income.” For the entire General Fund, the committee suggested the city “balance the General Fund budget without the use of reserves.” It was also suggested that the police budget be held at $5 million and the fire budget be held at $3.5 million for the next two years and that all city budgets be frozen for the next two years. The committee also recommends that the city “establish a minimum acceptable level of law enforcement services consistent with existing revenues.” “When everything is said and done, go back to the City Council and chief to say we need to build a model of what kind of services we can provide, based on what we can afford,” said Jim Datzman, a General Fund subcommittee member. The committee recommended that the city “consider requesting a proposal from the Sheriff” for contracting out police services, and also request a proposal from Cal Fire for contracting out fire services. The fire department was asked by the committee “to determine its relevance for the next five years.” It was recommended by the committee that City Council and city staff “review the original long-range plan for fire services” to determine that relevance. The recommendation was also made that the city “consider outsourcing police and fire communications to insure that two dispatchers are available at all times.” The hiring of an administrative clerk for the fire department was also a recommendation made. As far as the library is concerned, the committee suggested the city continue funding the Twelve Bridges Library and keep the Carnegie Library closed “until there is a significant and consistent upturn in the General Fund.” Nancy Whitaker, a General Fund subcommittee member, praised the Twelve Bridges Library. “They’ve done an incredible job in keeping expenses down,” Nancy Whitaker said. “To see parents bring their children there, it’s almost a destination place for the city, one of the few places parents on a budget can bring their children.” For development services, the committee suggested reducing staffing in the development services department, with a “target of a $700,000 reduction in expenses.” In the list of recommendations, the committee did not specify how many staff members should be cut.