The time is now

Guest column
By: Richard Pearl Special to The News Messenger
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Last week’s News-Messenger political cartoon (page A4, June 9) was about how, in any calamitous situation, there is always the potential for more bad news. For the past several years, the city of Lincoln has been struggling with the effects of the recession and previous decisions. Revenues have declined and services have been lowered. The light at the end of the tunnel has been elusive. After receiving an audit report from the outside auditors with some dire statements about what might happen fiscally to our city without corrective action, the City Council decided to create a fiscal sustainability plan. This analysis, action and measurement plan with both short- and long-range analysis is intended to develop a solid plan to get us back on track. The plan will be developed by a citizen-comprised fiscal sustainability committee with guidance from an experienced professional consulting company. The firm will also deliver an impartial review of the committee’s findings, conclusions and recommendations. The committee of citizen volunteers will: (1) examine the past so previous mistakes aren’t repeated (2) investigate potential new ways to deliver city services such as joining forces with neighboring jurisdictions or contracting with private industry (3) look at the impact of employee compensation (current and future) since that area comprises the vast majority of operating expenses (4) review development impact fees to assure that new growth pays for itself and (5) look at how we can reverse our current negative balances in various capital account funds. In short, we will determine where we are financially now and project – to the best of our information – where we will be and what it will take to secure our fiscal future. Our goal is to develop “core” financial principles for future guidance and performance measures to assure that what is adopted by the City Council is performed. Nothing will be sacred. We will seek input from all sources: citizens, employees, other cities and the third-party facilitator. What is important is that the results will not be dependent on any one source of information but will be a blend of the best data we can find. This will be a huge undertaking with success or failure depending on broad community participation that includes analytical work, creative thinking, a desire to succeed and a willingness to participate in eventual community discussion through workshops. The committee will be comprised of nine citizens: five from the Phase I Committee (which developed the consultant request for proposal) and four new members. In addition, there will be many subcommittees, comprising potentially between 20 and 30 additional citizens. We are asking citizens to participate with us in this effort and fill these positions. Highly experienced in finance or not (helpful, of course), previously engaged in community affairs or not, having more available time for the “core” committee or if less time available then for a subcommittee, you are needed now! Meetings will be held at night to afford the opportunity to participate to everyone who works during the day. Please see the City’s web site, ( and the fiscal sustainability committee section on the home page for more information and an application. Applications are due at City Hall no later than Friday, June 24. From: Committee members Richard Pearl (chairman), Lee Guth (vice chairman), Dan Karleskint, Bob Perro, Larry Whitaker