City Budget Public Hearing Draws Speakers on New Moms Program, Free Transportation | local government

Lacie Bolte’s 4-month-old daughter made her first appearance before Lincoln City Council on Monday as her mother recounted her difficult entry into the world – and how a universal home-visiting program for new moms proposed in the city’s budget mayor would have helped.

Bolte was among more than 30 speakers at a public hearing on the mayor’s proposed two-year budget that would add, among other things, eight public health nurses to expand the visitation program to support all new mothers in the city and their children.

The proposed budget – which represents a 7.4% increase in spending in the first year and 4% in the second year – has also drawn opponents to a proposal to start charging reduced bus fares after two years of free buses during the pandemic.

Those speakers — including members of the mayor-appointed StarTran Advisory Board who voted last week to reject the mayor’s proposal — argued that it was worth the $1.2 million annual cost to continue offering services. free bus tickets under a two-year pilot program.

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Other speakers welcomed additions to the budget that promote climate change, including more money for pruning and planting trees, and money to support the use of alternative fuels and electric vehicles. in the city fleet.

Several speakers urged council to reconsider a proposal by Councilman Bennie Shobe to add $300,000 each year for grants to residents who buy electric heat pumps for their homes.

Shobe’s suggestion was among several adjustments to the budget suggested by council members, as was a suggestion by councilor Richard Meginnis to cut funding to add nurses to expand the home visiting program for new moms.

Although fellow board members didn’t approve of any of these changes, board members still have time to reintroduce them before they vote on the budget on Aug. 22 — which is why the likes of Bolte weighed in on Monday. .

Bolte said she had a normal pregnancy, but her delivery turned into an emergency C-section with severe bleeding that delayed her ability to breastfeed her daughter. Once home, she suffered from postpartum depression and she and her husband faced a severe shortage of formula milk.

Bolte said she was educated as a social worker, that she and her husband were in good health, had good jobs, health insurance and a good support network – but the home visiting program with visits from a registered nurse would have helped.

“I have access to so many more resources than most people in Lincoln, but I needed them,” she said.

She would not have been eligible for the existing program, which is available to low-income residents, she said.

“You would miss me,” she said.

Others, including pediatrician Stacie Bleicher, said such programs help prevent childhood trauma from abuse, neglect, domestic violence and parental substance abuse by providing support and education. parents from the start.

Questions from some board members indicated that they were concerned about the cost of maintaining such a program, which would be paid for with existing money in the first year, cost $153,633 the following year and $737,725 per year. year thereafter.

The mayor’s proposed $243.5 million tax-funded budget for 2022-23 – an increase of nearly $16.7 million, would be followed by a $9.8 million increase the year next.

It’s bolstered by a projected 18% increase in sales tax revenue in 2022-23 and a smaller 1.2% increase the following year — one of the city’s two main sources of funding. The other is property tax revenue. The mayor is proposing to cut the tax rate by half a cent, which will save taxpayers $1.2 million.

Several speakers urged the council to find money somewhere in the city’s coffers to continue free buses, pointing out that the city had offered $1.5 million to donate to Lincoln Airport to attract new air services. That money came from federal stimulus funds.

While it would cost money, it would increase ridership and provide a fairer transportation system, and advance the goals of the mayor’s climate plan by reducing the number of cars on the streets, the stakeholders said.

StarTran advisory board member Kathy Ashley said the city moved to improve the bus system and then cut services.

“I want citizens, community and council members to carefully consider and find a way to make StarTran’s growth viable,” she said. “This community needs this advice to invest in StarTran.”

Several speakers testified in favor of adding new positions, particularly those in the City Clerk’s Office, Building and Security.

Bud Synhorst, president and CEO of the Lincoln Independent Business Association, praised the budget’s investment in public safety (he adds police, fire, emergency dispatchers) and infrastructure, but questioned question adding what city officials said was a total of 67 new positions.

With supply chain issues facing businesses and soaring inflation, now may not be the right time for a 7% increase over the current budget, he said. .

“It’s a good time for the city to say where can we show a little restraint,” he said.

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On Twitter @LJSreist

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