I live in Omaha.

Recent in Town

Monday, September 28, 2009

Public affairs students sit in on city council meeting

In an effort to “stop the bleeding” city budget from impacting the community, the Omaha City Council approved a 10-percent property tax increase with a 4-2 vote on Tuesday.

Employees from DirectTV look on as city council members converse. (Andrea Ciurej/UNO)

Students from lecturer Karen Weber's public affairs reporting class were present at the meeting.

 Public affairs students Tim Kucera and Lisa Dirks take notes at the city council meeting. (Andrea Ciurej/UNO)

If the council did not uphold Mayor Jim Suttle’s veto, the tax increase would have jumped to 6.4 cents per $100 of assessed valuation.

Council member Jean Stothert was one of the two votes opposing the property-tax increase. Council member Pete Festersen also opposed the increase.

“If I felt strong enough about it two weeks ago, I will still feel strong enough about it today,” Stothert said. “My position has been and it always will be, and I ran my race on a set of pledges and a set of promises that a tax increase would be the last resort.”

She said there are still concerns circulating throughout the Omaha community.

“There are many people out there on the verge of losing their homes, there’s many people out there that can’t pay their bills,” Stothert said.

Stothert also addressed the 1.5-cent tax increase implemented by the Omaha Public Schools and Metropolitan Community College’s 26-percent tax increase. Other items included the need to raise taxes for the city’s sewer separation project and the further development of the city’s bridges and roads.

“And it adds up, and it adds up and it adds up,” she said.

Stothert doesn’t feel the city is prepared to move forward with this increase.

“I feel like there is still a lot of work we can still do to reduce spending before I support a property-tax increase, especially during these times,” she said. “This is not our money we are spending, this is the community spending.”

Council member Franklin Thompson voted to uphold the mayor’s veto for the budget.

City council members Franklin Thompson (left) and Chris Jerram speak before the meeting. (Andrea Ciurej/UNO)

“In all of that time, I’ve always said that taxes are a last option, but I have never said that taxes will never ever be raised,” Thompson said.

Before coming to a solution, Thompson wanted assurance of Suttle’s dedication to “stop the bleeding” budget.

“I think the thing that is wrong with city government is sometimes we want to just pidgeon hole or just separate these things and only talk about them in isolation, but everyone that comes in person doesn’t see it that way,” Thompson said.

He said upholding the tax increase is a more responsible decision.

“We’re faced with a certain reality and we’re going to have a property-tax increase,” Thompson said. “I think it’s more responsible to go with the lower rate than the higher rate.”

Before coming to a decision, Thompson said he had to weigh many different aspects of Suttle’s proposal.

“In the end, I have a job to do and the job is to make sure the city does not shut down,” Thompson said. “One of the things I definitely don’t want to do is saddle citizens with a 6.4 percent property tax, when at least we can get away with something that’s small.”


  1. Andrea, I think you are an amazing storyteller with your photographs!

  2. Thank you, Joan. I appreciate your comment very much!