City Councilwoman Lamm claims budget votes were filed illegally - News, Weather and Sports for Lincoln, NE;

City councilwoman Lamm claims budget votes were filed illegally

City Councilwoman Lamm claims budget votes were filed illegally

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Lincoln City Councilwoman Cyndi Lamm is claiming certain votes on past city budgets were misreported. 

Mayor Chris Beutler responded Wednesday night, saying Lamm's claims are untrue. 

Below are press releases sent out by Lamm and the Mayor's office. 

City Councilwoman Cyndi Lamm expressed frustration and disappointment today with May or Chris Beutler’s unwillingness to correct an error in the city’s budget that was due to misreported votes of the city council in past years.

“I have been trying for weeks now to get the administration to correct these illegally reported votes, but the administration has refused to do anything,” said Lamm.

Lamm’s comments come following her discovery that certain aspects of Nebraska law related to city budgets had not been correctly complied with.

Nebraska law places limits on the annual amount by which the city’s budget can grow.

These limits have been in place since the late 90’s, and are meant to help protect taxpayers from rapid growth in budgets that leads to excessive property taxes.

The limits may be exceeded to some extent, but typically only if the city council votes by a three-fourths majority to do so.

Because of this high vote threshold, exceeding the statutory limit requires 6 of the 7 Lincoln city council members to vote to do so.

Lamm said that she recently realized the administration had improperly counted those votes in the past and had reported to the state that they had been given authority to increase the spending lid when they actually had not.

“There have been at least two occasions where Mayor Beutler and his staff have improperly informed state officials that the city budget funds could exceed the statutory growth rate even though the measure did not receive enough votes,” stated Lamm.

“Because of this error, and because of the city’s rapid budget growth, Lincoln taxpayers have not been afforded the full protection of state law and are now backed into a corner,” said Lamm.

“What has happened isn’t right, and raising spending limits without the legal number of votes fails to provide the type of honesty and transparency I promised my constituents when I asked them to vote for me. Mayor Beutler should correct these past mistakes and should make an effort to work with the council to get Lincoln back on track with its allowable spending limits under Nebraska law to ensure taxpayers are being treated fairly.”

Mayor Chris Beutler today said the City Council’s past failure to approve a one-percent increase in City spending authority has created a “growth barrier” that threatens the City’s ability to meet the needs of an expanding community.

The State only allows city budgets to grow 2.5 percent each year. City governing bodies can vote to allow a budget to grow 3.5 percent per year. That extra one percent requires approval by 75 percent of the Council. For seven of the last nine years, the Council has not approved the one percent.

“If that additional one-percent is not consistently approved in a growing community, it will wreak havoc on the City budget, destroying the flexibility needed to hire new police officers and firefighters and maintain library hours and keeping swimming pools open,” Beutler said.  “Without that one-percent increase, we cannot keep pace with the annual inflationary and growth costs of providing needed services, and our City will not grow.  Authorizing the additional one-percent will not lead to a tax rate increase. It merely allows the City the authority to spend money that is already budgeted and collected.”

Beutler said the one-percent is routinely approved by hundreds of Nebraska cities, counties and other governmental entities.  The Lancaster County Board has approved it every year since at least 2006 as have Omaha, Bellevue, Papillion, Fremont, Norfolk, Kearney and almost every other large city in Nebraska.

Council Member Cyndi Lamm today said the City made a reporting mistake in the 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 budget years.  In both of those years, five of the six Council members -- 83 percent -- voted to approved the lid.   The City Finance Department believed they had met the threshold based on their interpretation of the language on the forms submitted to the State Auditor’s Office.  The City later discovered there was a question about whether six votes were required, even if one member was absent.

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