Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Lincoln Property Taxes and Spending

On Saturday, Lincoln Mayor Coleen Seng unveiled her new budget proposal for the city. As predicted, she aims to keep all the windfall revenue from the revaluation. The Lincoln Journal Star reports:
Mayor Coleen Seng has proposed what she calls a low-calorie municipal budget, although it relies on a healthy dose of extra property tax revenue resulting from the county assessor's recent revaluation. Seng said the city is like one big family that has to live within its means."This no-frills budget meets the minimum daily needs but won't satisfy anyone's appetite for full services," the mayor said in a news release.

Her budget proposal would leave the city property tax rate alone, allowing the city to collect an estimated $5 million more because the property it taxes will be worth more.

That allows the mayor to say she didn't raise property taxes, even though most property owners would pay more.
Well, sure... she's "allowed" to say that. It's a free country. That doesn't make it true, of course. Sure property taxes will be going up $5 million, but she didn't raise them. This is a "no-frills budget" that "won't satisfy anyone's appetite." We wonder if the mayor is polishing up her act for a standup comedy tour when her term is (finally) up. We're just "one big family that has to live within its means." Why do we think Mayor Seng is playing the role of our deadbeat cousin looking to borrow some money to start a business raising chinchillas?

Meanwhile, the City Council is realizing that no one is buying this "not a tax increase" tax increase. Even a majority of the Democrats are getting cold feet on the mayor's spending plans:
During her “State of the City” speech Monday, Mayor Coleen Seng sent a message to City Council members abandoning previous inclinations to use new, higher property values to buttress the budget: Don’t cut and run.

The mayor said during budget meetings earlier this year, most council members indicated they’d support using the higher valuations to balance the city’s 2006-2007 budget.

But their support has eroded since the new property values were released late last month.
She actually said, "cut and run." Where did she get the idea Democrats would do that? Is she questioning their patriotism?

A "key" project in this "low-calorie" budget is a $2.1 million subsidy to lure a new HyVee supermarket to the middle of town at 48th and O. Well, it's not actually a "new" one, because HyVee will be closing another (somewhat smaller) store at 70th and O. It's argued that the real subsidy is "only" $752,000, and much of the rest is for storm sewer and street repair projects for the area that need to be done anyway.

The mayor has designated the 48th and O area as "blighted," and this is part of her plan to relocate some of the blight out to 70th and O.

The mayor recently quashed the development deal that would have put a new WalMart in NE Lincoln without requiring any subsidy from the city. She doesn't like WalMart, whatever WalMart customers may think, and doesn't want any more of its kind around here.

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