Bellevue City Council Tweaks Budget Proposal

Bellevue City Council Tweaks Budget Proposal

By Kelly Bartnick. CREATED Sep 3, 2013

BELLEVUE, NE - The Bellevue City Council may amend its proposed two-year budget to address a funding shortfall. The council held a hearing on the budget Tuesday, talking about ways to save city staff and keep the city's fire department running.

City administrators previously said a $5 million shortfall in the proposed $68 million budget would mean cuts to every department. Nearly 30 jobs would be on the chopping block, including police support staff. They also planned to take city fire engines out of service on a rolling basis.

"That's where one station is closed every day. It has a significant impact on response time," said city administrator Dan Berlowitz.

City councilor Don Preister proposed an alternative Tuesday night. He combed through the budget, making cuts in other places, like capital improvements, in order to keep the police force staffed and put all fire engines on the road.

"It doesn't matter what cuts we make, someone isn't going to be happy," said Preister. "I took $150,000 from the budget that would fix the broken sidewalk in front of the library which would be a safety hazard," he said referring to how tight the budget is.

Bellevue officials have also proposed a property tax increase to ease the shortfall. A 4.5 percent increase would be spread out over two years. According to Berlowitz, the hike would be the first in Bellevue in four years.

Citizens lined up for more than an hour to voice opinions on the proposals. Many suggested the council look at higher paid administrative positions and streamline city offices. Others favored the tax increase to keep emergency services running at full capacity.

The city has a week to come up with a compromise. A final budget hearing is scheduled for September 9.

Preister said he will also propose a restaurant tax based on the one in Omaha, saying it could raise at least $1 million annually. The council didn't officially discuss that proposal Tuesday night. Residents are against that proposal.