LIBA Requests the LPS Board of Education Lower the Property Tax Levy – Also Welcomes New Members

The Lincoln Independent Business Association (LIBA) requests the Lincoln Public Schools (LPS) Board of Education work to lower the property tax levy in the next budget year.

LIBA recognizes that LPS is not currently in their budget process, however, LPS is in process of negotiating with the Lincoln Education Association (LEA) for the 2015-2016 fiscal year. Personnel costs are one of the main drivers of the LPS budget. Therefore, if the LPS Board intends to lower the property tax levy it must begin with personnel costs.

Lincoln is home to a great school system and the community is tremendously supportive of our schools. In 2014 we approved a $153 million bond issue. Currently, LPS is building a new Career Academy with significant backing of many Lincoln businesses. After receiving so much continued support from Lincoln, it is time for LPS to show its support and appreciation of the Lincoln community by lowering the tax levy.

Using LPS research, here is how teacher pay compared with similar districts in the 2013-14 school year.

According to LPS research, starting base pay for LPS teachers in 2014-2015 is $4,300 above Omaha Public Schoolsi and $4,000 above Millard’sii. That is just base pay, this gap widens as salary is increased due to years of service and annual raises. Further, LPS gives teachers twice the amount of planning time as similar Nebraska school districtsiii, shorter instructional days than comparable districtsiv, class cover pay that is $12 an hour above that paid in Omahav, and unlimited accumulation of leavevi.

This is not to say that LPS should pay teachers less, we are saying that since we are now at the TOP regarding pay and some benefits, that it is time to prioritize a tax cut for Lincoln. Fortunately, LPS can lower its levy by $.01 without triggering a loss in state aid money.

We can be proud that the district compensates teachers very well, is building new facilities, remodeling and implementing technology. It is time to recognize the “community” behind this momentum. Now is the time to give-back to the community by planning to lower the tax levy and keeping taxpayer dollars in the taxpayer’s pocket.

2014-2015 Settlements for Neighboring and Omaha Metro School Districts; Compiled by LPS Human Resources ii 2014-2015 Settlements for Neighboring and Omaha Metro School Districts; Compiled by LPS Human Resources iii 2014-2015 Settlements for Neighboring and Omaha Metro School Districts; Compiled by LPS Human Resources iv 2013-2014 Comparability Information; Compiled by LPS Human Resources v 2014-2015 Settlements for Neighboring and Omaha Metro School Districts; Compiled by LPS Human Resources vi 2013-2014 CIR Leaves and Other Conditions; Compiled by LPS Human Resources


by Coby Mach, President & CEO

Lincoln Independent Business Association

402-466-3419

www.liba.org


LIBA studies and promotes these types of issues that are important to businesses and our community.  If you have an interest in joining LIBA, please call me at 466-3419.  LIBA membership is not restricted to just businesses.  We also have “individual” memberships for those who want to help influence our local government decisions.


LIBA New Members


Bryson’s Airboat Tours

When you think of airboat tours, do you think of the Everglades or a swamp tour? Well, think again! Bryson’s Airboat Tours will take you for the ride of your life on the beautiful Platte River. Whether it’s a team-building event, family reunion or a sunset boat ride, we have you covered. Contact us today and we will find the package that works best for you. For more information about Bryson’s Airboat Tours visit our website at www.brysonsairboattours.com or call us at (402) 968-8534.


dkSolutions

Whether you are just getting started (or wanting to get started) with online marketing (email and social media), dkSolutions speciaizes in helping entrepreneurs and small business owners navigate this sometimes tricky and often overwhelming area. Owner, Diane Siefkes, is a certified HootSuite professional and Constant Contact service provider. For more information about dkSolutions, please contact Diane at (402) 525-6027, by email at diane@dksolutionsne.com, or visit www.dkSolutionsne.com.


Greta’s Gourmet

Greta’s Gourmet is an incredible place where food=love. You can smell it the second you walk in the door, and taste it in every bite. Your “Meat”ing place for gourmet food in Lincoln, Greta’s Gourmet offers a wide selection of hand-crafted foods that are perfect for any occasion. Greta’s Gourmet is a full-service caterer, providing Chef-created meals for parties and offices for 2-500 people. Their full-service butcher shop and sausage kitchen feature Certified Angus Beef, fresh seafood, poultry, pork and 27 varieties of sausages and jerky every day.  They make EVERYTHING from scratch, and the quality is unmatched in Lincoln. For more information about Greta’s Gourmet Catering, please contact Kyle at (402) 420-6328, via email at catering@gretasgourmetfood.com, or visit www.gretasgourmetfood.com.


The Nine’s

The Nine’s is a new women’s and men’s boutique open in Fallbrook, located at 575 Fallbrook Blvd, Suite 106, in the heart of Fallbrook’s Town Center. The boutique carries a variety of unique clothing, shoes and accessories. The Nine’s hours are Monday-Saturday from 10-6, with the exception of Thursday when hours are extended until 8 pm for special Wine Nights where customers can shop later while enjoying a glass of wine, and Sunday from 12-5.  The Nine’s offers a casual, relaxed shopping environment with plenty of convenient parking and will only carry a limited amount of each exclusive item, so stop out and DRESS TO THE NINE’S!!  For more information about The Nine’s, find The Nine’s – Fallbrook on Facebook and Instagram or contact owner Kathy Hagge at (402) 904-5257.

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The Lincoln Independent Business Association Says Thanks to Lincoln Electric Systems for Listening and Welcomes New Members

The Lincoln Independent Business Association (LIBA) and I would like to express our support for the 2015 Lincoln Electric Systems (LES) budget which does not increase electric rates.

In seven of the past ten years LIBA and I have testified before the LES Board and the City Council asking that rate increases be reduced or eliminated. Electric rates affect every aspect of life in Lincoln, from household budgets to businesses’ bottom line. Large employers are especially price sensitive. For these organizations even the smallest percentage increase can equate to hundreds of thousands of dollars. For example, in 2012, an effective rate increase of 3.5% resulted in Veyance, a Lincoln employer with over 550 employees, paying an additional $150,000.

Last year during the budget, I provided the following statistics. “In the last ten years LES has raised rates over 42%. In the ten years prior, LES rates only increased 8%.i  LES should try to reverse the current trend of increases.” I am pleased to report that the LES staff and Board worked to slow this trend.

For the upcoming budget year the LES board made tough decisions and prioritized maintaining electric rates in their 2015 budget. Weighing the needs and wants of an entire organization is never an easy task but LES rose to the challenge. I would like to thank LES and the LES Board for its efforts to maintain rates for all Lincoln’s ratepayers.

As LES works to add renewables to its energy portfolio, I support the reasoned approach used by LES in developing its Sunshares program. This program empowers ratepayers with the means and desire to expand renewables in Lincoln while recognizing the fiscal constraints confronting others. The Sunshares program is a prescient example of balance, allowing Lincoln ratepayers to work toward a more sustainable future without placing the burden on many who can ill afford it. LIBA encourages LES to continue to promote this voluntary program and this program model as it diversifies its energy portfolio.

Finally, I would encourage LES to work closely with the City of Lincoln while developing plans for a south Lincoln service center. Currently, both the Lincoln Police Department and Lincoln Fire and Rescue are looking for new south Lincoln locations. There may be opportunities for LES and Lincoln’s public safety departments to work together and recognize efficiencies in locating and building facilities.

In sum, I would like to thank LES and the LES Board for the lengths to which it goes to provide Lincoln with affordable and reliable energy, to engage members in supporting new programs and to prioritize needs to avoid a rate increase in 2015.

i “History of LES Rate Changes;” requested from LES, provided on 23 Sept. 2013.


by Coby Mach, President & CEO
Lincoln Independent Business Association
402-466-3419
www.liba.org


LIBA New Members


1776 Grounds Maintenance

Logo_1776_Grounds_Maintenance_Omaha_Nebraska1776 Grounds Maintenance provides total grounds care services all year long, including lawn care, landscape maintenance, tree care, leaf and debris removal, snow removal—essentially everything needed to keep your properties well cared for. The main focus of the company is commercial properties, especially strip malls. Our goal at 1776 is to utilize our knowledge and techniques to streamline the process so that everything gets taken care of in a timely manner. We are passionate about providing excellent service to our customers and taking the absolute best care of their properties. Visit www.1776gm.com, find us on Facebook, or call (402) 217-2314 to find out more about 1776 Grounds Maintenance.


Photo_Pam_Oliver_Home_Real_Estate_Lincoln_NebraskaPam Oliver, GRI, AHWD, SFR – Home Real Estate

A real estate agent with HOME Real Estate’s Pine Lake office, my mission is to provide the finest residential and new construction real estate services with uncompromising principles. I believe, as the old saying goes, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” or “treat people the way you would want to be treated.” I am committed to perseverance and hard work. My word as your Realtor is not complete until you are satisfied. I only deal with a few clients at one time. Too many Realtors focus on numbers of listings or clients, which leaves them with very little time to provide PERSONAL service. I believe in QUALITY, not QUANTITY.

I also believe in involvement in the community. I’ve been elected to the Board of Directors of the Lincoln Realtors Association, Chair of the Government Affairs Committee of the Association, and am a member of the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce. I can be contacted at (402) 405-5546 or via email at pam.oliver@homerealestate.com.


Logo-Men-With-Dreams-Lincoln-NebraskaMen With Dreams

Men With Dreams (www.mwdreams.com) is a 501c3 non-profit organization. Our mission is to create an environment of excellence, personal significance, and achievement for our youth.  We call our personalized youth development program E5, which stands for Education, Empowerment, Engagement, Excellence and Encouragement.

We believe that everyone deserves an opportunity to pursue his or her goals and dreams. Our job is to assist them on that journey and help them build their dreams. Many kids are growing up in cyclical poverty and don’t have the opportunity or support to make their dreams a reality. Look at your own community; everyone can think of good kids who got caught up in the wrong situations. Our program gives those kids the structure and support necessary to help them become productive members of society. Our environment and attitude toward our kids is simple: do your best, you are important, and take a step forward today.

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Common Sense Solutions in Lincoln, Nebraska

We are already hearing a Lancaster County Commissioner predict a property tax increase when next year’s budget session rolls around. The County Commissioners have worked hard to prevent a tax increase in recent years. I know how hard they work; I meet with them on a regular basis. However, there are always common sense solutions when looking to avoid a tax increase. Below is the testimony that LIBA presented a few weeks ago to the County Commissioners. I hope you agree that this is a common sense solution.

The Lincoln Independent Business Association (LIBA) supports moving the retirement match for non-union Lancaster county employees and elected officials from 150% to a still generous 100% retirement match.

In 2012 LIBA worked with the County Board and Lincoln’s State Senators to pass LB 687. This statutory amendment enabled the county to move from a 150% retirement match to a 100% retirement match. LIBA supported this legislation as a measure to control personnel costs and to bring public taxpayer funded retirement benefits in line with private sector benefits. It is simply inequitable to demand taxpayers fund retirement benefits more generous than those earned by most employees in the private sector.

Since LB 687 passed in 2012 the County has negotiated four of its five employee unions from a 150% match to a 100% match. It is now appropriate to move the non-union employees to a similar 100% retirement match.

For the past several years the Lancaster County budget has faced significant funding shortfalls and County Commissioners have turned to one time monies to fill gaps. With personnel costs accounting for over half of the County’s General Fund budget the County must control personnel costs in order to control its budget. Though immediate savings from this change will be small, it is the first step towards future savings and maintaining a responsible county budget.

Therefore, LIBA supports changing the retirement match for non-union employees from 150% to 100% as a necessary step to bring county benefits in line with private sector retirement benefits and create future savings to help balance the county budget.

Finally, I would like to invite you to become a LIBA member.  We have a luncheon on the third Monday of every month.  We average 180 business and community leaders who attend and we would like you to be one of them.  We have at least two other free networking events every month.  LIBA has several important committees that are standing up for small business every day.  We monitor the City Council and work on legislative bills at the state capitol to help foster a pro-business mindset.  And of course we work to try and keep your taxes and regulation to a reasonable level.

For more information on joining LIBA, please call me at (402) 466-3419.  Thank you and Happy Thanksgiving.


by Coby Mach, President & CEO

Lincoln Independent Business Association

402-466-3419

www.liba.org


LIBA studies and promotes these types of issues that are important to businesses and our community.  If you have an interest in joining LIBA, please call me at 466-3419.  LIBA membership is not restricted to just businesses.  We also have “individual” memberships for those who want to help influence our local government decisions.

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Lancaster County Juggles Priorities And The Jail Is Costing Millions in Lincoln, Nebraska

Once again this year the Lancaster County Commissioners, and the county staff, have had to make tough choices in funding programs and services.

Lancaster County Commissioners have worked hard to preserve vital services, while maintaining a hold on the property tax levy.

While a hold on taxes is important, so is funding for roads and bridges. The LIBA Budget Monitoring Committee is concerned that the County will only pave 1 mile of road and overlay 10 miles in the coming year. Additionally the County has reduced the Engineering budget by a quarter of a million dollars. Lancaster County has deteriorating bridges and roads. LIBA is not criticizing Board decisions, but is suggesting that any unanticipated funds, from sources such as higher than anticipated property values or inheritance taxes be dedicated to roads. Additionally LIBA suggests the County inform department directors that mid-year budget requests are likely to be denied.

LIBA wants to thank the Commissioners for their continued support for providing RTSD funds for the South Beltway. As you know, in the past 12 years 18 people have died on the stretch of Highway 2 that falls within Lincoln city limits. We applaud Lancaster County’s commitment to community safety.

LIBA would like to address another area of community safety. The budget for the new jail and corrections department has increased dramatically. Just a few years ago, the 2011 budget contained approval for 169 employees at a cost of $14 million. The new 2015 budget shows jail funding at $20 million with 220 employees. LIBA understands that costs increase, and we all want a safe working environment for county corrections employees. Therefore, LIBA recommends a cost analysis be done to determine how Lancaster County may benefit by housing our prisoners at other county jails as was done prior to 2013.

While some have cautioned the County on the use of Keno funds, LIBA would like to express support. The 2015 County budget uses $1.2 million in Keno funds to make ends meet. The Board appears to be turning Keno funds into a permanent solution to a funding gap. LIBA believes this is a reasonable alternative to a property tax increase.

Finally, LIBA would like to encourage the County to work with the state legislature to seek an alternative to the state Commission on Industrial Relations (CIR). The current rules and regulations under the CIR make it nearly impossible to control employee expenses and benefits. Between Fiscal years 2014 and 2015 the County anticipates reducing employment by 55 employees yet budgeted payroll costs are increasing by over $6,000 per employee.i One union contract even restricts the County from terminating (RIF) a full time employee unless all part-time employees are fired first. That does not allow the flexibility to staff at proper levels. This Union rule is in effect even in the case of an emergency. Other Union rules say that the County must remove written reprimands and employee warnings from the employee file after a year. Plus the County is forced to give pay raises based on what other cities in other states pay. This is an archaic system. We encourage the County to explore alternative methods used by other states to find a better means of solving labor “impasse.”

i Summary of Lancaster County Budget; pgs. 7 and 10


by Coby Mach, President & CEO

Lincoln Independent Business Association

402-466-3419

www.liba.org


LIBA studies and promotes these types of issues that are important to businesses and our community.  If you have an interest in joining LIBA, please call me at 466-3419.  LIBA membership is not restricted to just businesses.  We also have “individual” memberships for those who want to help influence our local government decisions.

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LIBA Examines Three Themes for the Upcoming Two Year Budget Cycle in Lincoln, Nebraska

I recently appeared before the Lincoln City Council – on behalf of LIBA – to talk about the city budget. Below is a summary of my comments.

The Lincoln Independent Business Association (LIBA) applauds the Mayor’s office and City Council for not raising the property tax levy or wheel taxes in the new budget. While holding the line on the levy, the city will still receive and spend $7.3 million more than it did last year. This allows the City to increase services and keep Lincoln a city on the move.

With this in mind, LIBA endorses three themes for this coming two year budget cycle.

1. Dedicate less spending towards administration and more towards workers who actually provide the services:

a. Parks and Rec – Rather than promoting an executive secretary at an annual cost of $17,400; and spending $15,000 to co-fund a new Public Information Specialist, the Parks and Recreation department should invest in workers who take care of landscapes and parks.

b. Citizen Information Center – It’s unwise for Lincoln to be adding a Public Information Specialist while its facilities are neglected. The City has about 36 concrete tennis court surfaces that are essentially unplayable (Henry Park, Densmore Park, and others), basketball rims without nets, new green spaces with high weeds, and parks with high grass. If Lincoln invests in its facilities public perception will take care of itself. Eliminating this position from the CIC budget will save $20,000.

c. Personnel Costs – Part of the city’s problem is our personnel costs. In 2011-12 City personnel costs averaged $80,893 per employee.i In 2015-16 City personnel costs are $94,070 per employee. ii

2. Wants versus needs:

a. Tax Increment Financing Fee – LIBA is concerned about the 1% TIF surcharge and about where the “extra” funds will be spent. The City Council has voted to take any surplus TIF funds and apply them to a problem property fund. LIBA would like to express frustration with this decision. For the past few months, city leaders have asked community groups to support a sales tax increase to fund roads, parks and sidewalk repair. These three items were identified as the highest “need” in Lincoln. If the funding shortfall for roads, parks and sidewalks is important enough to consider raising taxes, shouldn’t the City dedicate “extra” funds to these needs? Sending surplus dollars to anything other than roads, parks or sidewalks will only feed into the community skepticism about the real need to raise our sales tax.

b. Streets – Is a Median Maintenance Administrator really needed? The community seems to be in agreement that fixing our roads should be a priority. The Mayor even has a recent scientific poll showing that 89% of the people want the street to their home repaired.

c. Retirement Plans – LIBA believes that city leaders should propose a resolution to solve our $65 million dollar defined benefit retirement plan problem and move toward the very generous defined contribution plan that is offered to all other city employees. Otherwise, the City will always have an unpredictable retirement program and taxpayer liability.

3. Fees:

a. Parks and Rec – LIBA supports Council Member Baird for eliminating the entrance fee for Pioneers Park Nature Center

b. Landfill – LIBA is concerned that the increased landfill fees will result in higher garbage service fees to Lincoln citizens. Has the City explored all alternatives? Do we need retain a Senior Policy Aide for Sustainability? Lincoln needs to control costs to avoid this tax increase.

(Note)The $2 increase in Occupation Tax could generate $300,000 to $900,000 and will fund “recycling education.” In September of 2013 the city increased garbage fees 19% and this would be another 16% increase, or a total of 35% since last year!

c. Landscape compliance fee – LIBA requested more information about this fee including the dollar amount of the fee to be charged to developers. No information has been provided, therefore, LIBA requests elimination of this fee.

In closing, LIBA would like to remind the City that Lincoln weathered the recession by shrinking city government: the Mayor eliminated 139 city positions. There is no reason to abandon this successful formula. Today Lincoln thrives – our city is growing and highly rated by many magazines and web sites. Let’s sustain the momentum by exercising caution when adding government positions.


i City of Lincoln Biennial Operating Budget 2014-2016; All Tax Funds Expenditures By Category; p.29
ii City of Lincoln Biennial Operating Budget 2014-2016; All Tax Funds Expenditures By Category; p.29


by Coby Mach, President & CEO

Lincoln Independent Business Association

402-466-3419

www.liba.org

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Considering a Local Sales Tax Increase and the Dilemma of Lincoln, Nebraska’s Roads

I appreciate that you are taking the time to read my column.  I want to be very clear that this column reflects my personal thoughts on the possible sales tax increase being discussed by our community leaders.  The following does NOT reflect the views of LIBA or its Board of Directors.

As the city, Mayor, elected officials, and community leaders talk about a plan to increase the local sales tax by ½% or ¼%, I encourage you to consider several points.

First, there were many causes listed as needing funding such as roads, parks, sidewalks, economic development and fixing problem properties.  While each of these is certainly worthwhile, I would encourage the community to focus on fixing our local streets.  Documents provided by the Mayor’s office show that in the past 9 years, our street conditions have deteriorated horribly.  In 2005 we only had 13% of our streets in fair to poor condition.  Today we have 37% that are rated fair to poor.

The documents also reveal a startling statistic.  A $1 million dollar project can cost as much as $15 million if the street declines from “good” to “poor.”  You can see that properly funding street rehabilitation is a smart move and saves money!

I would also urge our community leaders to consider the increased burden to restaurant and bar patrons if a ½ cent sales tax is implemented.  If you add the Arena Tax, followed by the standard 7% sales tax, then add in a new ½ or ¼ cent sales tax, it will mean you are paying nearly 10% on your bar and restaurant bill.  Part of the tax is compounded because sales tax is charged on the arena tax, or a “tax on a tax.”

Additionally, I think the city needs to prove that it will be good stewards of the tax dollars they already collect.  The city has not always had a good track record of keeping promises.  You may recall that when wheel taxes were increased from $31 to $39 in 1995 city officials claimed the money would be used to widen Old Cheney Road from 70th to 84th streets, 56th Street from Old Cheney Road to Pine Lake Road and Pine Lake Road from 56th street to Nebraska Highway 2. In the ensuing 18 years the city has increased wheel taxes six more times and the promised projects have yet to be completed.

For some, this ½ cent sales tax has become a debate about road funding vs. parks and sidewalks.   It should be noted that in a June 2014 community meeting, the Mayor announced that he was going to provide another $1 million in funding for Lincoln Parks & Recreation in the new city budget.  Also this year, the city approved $4 million in new funds for sidewalk repair. The City found funding for parks and sidewalks, now it is time to address Lincoln’s roads problem.

Finally, the Mayor conducted a scientific poll that showed 89% of Lincolnites wanted the roads to their home fixed or repaired.  It’s my opinion that now is the time to focus on fixing our streets and I hope we can do it without another tax increase!  I welcome your thoughts at (402) 430-5554.


by Coby Mach, President & CEO

Lincoln Independent Business Association

402-466-3419

www.liba.org


 LIBA studies and promotes these types of issues that are important to businesses and our community.  If you have an interest in joining LIBA, please call me at 466-3419.  LIBA membership is not restricted to just businesses.  We also have “individual” memberships for those who want to help influence our local government decisions.

Read more