The proposed tax
hikes were a topic that riled up many of the speakers at Tuesday night's
public hearing. It was standing room only for close to 300 people with
another room set up for the overflow. Citizens spoke for 4-hours --
wrapping up at 11pm.
Close to 60 people
addressed the council. Many who spoke about the tax hikes spoke out against
them, some spoke in favor of them.
libraries was also a big topic. Many wore stickers in support. Earlier in
the week, the Library Board decided to close the Florence branch and
shorten the hours of the others for the rest of 2009.
Mather told the council that it's been hard seeing 55 employees let go as
part of the Mayor's budget cuts. "Losing these people means we're
Cuts to the
civilians union also came up time and again. 130 full-time and part-time
workers are facing layoffs notices this week. Bibiana
Decker, who has been in Omaha Public Works street maintenance for 13 years,
said workers like her feel like they aren't important when other
departments aren't hit hard. "Why don't we cut fire? Instead we pick
on civilians who pay a higher dental premium than fire management does and
we make the least amount of money."
disagreed that the layoffs aren't necessary. "It's not fun to layoff people." But he went on to say that
sometimes that's the only way for a business or government to solve its
tax was hit on by many of the speakers, but a property tax hike wasn't
forgotten. City council members heard from the average citizen, employees
and business owners who work in the industries targeted an
representatives from groups like the chamber of commerce. All are fearful
of what a tax hike could do to those already hurting.
The fight against tax hikes Tuesday started before you could
even get inside council chambers for the public hearing. Outside city hall
the Nebraska Taxpayers for Freedom protested a raise in taxes.
Patrick Bonnett, Nebraska
Taxpayers for Freedom, said, "and we've already submitted four pages
of budget efficiencies that the city can enact right away."
Members even collected petition signatures to show the city
council the support this movement has, along with its ideas.
"What we hope to do is help the city council understand
there's cuts they can make and efficiencies they
can enact to stave off some of the job cuts," explained Bonnett. As well as the proposed tax hikes.
Chris Bettini worries about the proposed entertainment tax.
"I work in the service industry, and I've heard a lot of people
complain about this tax, that they're not going to be able to go out as
would hurt his livelihood, which the economy is already doing.
"I have to
cut back, clip coupons and eat Ramen noodles and the mayor's buying a car
with a 24% interest
rate and raising
salaries of people $80,000. If I was doing that at home I wouldn't be able
to survive, and I think many people here are in the same boat."
Teacher Tom Consenza and his wife are. "We're afraid that at
the end of this school year, the cost of living in Omaha is going to be
such that we're not going to be teaching here after this next year."
Doug Kagan with the Nebraska
Taxpayers for Freedom also stood up to speak to the city council. "We
strongly urge you to mark the mayor's budget 'return to sender' and send it
back to room 300 with a list of sensible budget cuts attached."
There were those
who spoke in favor of the tax hikes. Members of OTOC, an organization made up mostly of local churches, said
they supported the proposed hikes. But out of all those who spoke Tuesday
night, that opinion was in the minority.
The city council
will vote on the budget September 1.