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2008 Media Releases

April 21, 2008
For More Information Contact:
Diane Gonzolas, Citizen Information Center, 441-7831
Elizabeth Neeley, Public Policy Center, 472-5678

Citizens show trust in City government and rate all services as importan

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Town Hall Schedule
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Budget Overview

Mayor Chris Beutler today said a scientific telephone survey shows Lincoln citizens rank safety and security and economic opportunity as high priorities for City funding. The survey of 600 randomly selected residents was conducted earlier this month as part of the first phase of “PRIORITY LINCOLN: We’re listening.” The project is an effort to solicit public opinion on how the City should spend tax dollars.

“The survey information is important to us as we deal with another tough budget year,” said Mayor Beutler. “This is a significant part of an unprecedented effort to find out what citizens want City government to accomplish with our limited resources.” Other components of PRIORITY LINCOLN are an online survey and a series of town hall meetings (Click here for schedule).

The Mayor outlined three other key findings from the results:

  • More than 50 percent of the respondents said they were satisfied with local government and felt officials could generally be trusted to make decisions that are right for residents as a whole.
  • Respondents rated all City services as important.
  • When given choices about how to solve the budget deficit, two-thirds of the respondents chose to maintain current spending on the programs offered.

When asked about funding major new projects for the City, 12.48 percent chose increased taxes; 15.99 percent chose to cut funds from other areas; 18.28 percent did not want new projects; and 53.25 percent wanted “some other approach.”

“This indicates that the majority of respondents want to see the City explore new projects, but they want us to be innovative in how we fund them,” said Mayor Beutler.

The Mayor thanked the City’s partners on PRIORITY LINCOLN: the University of Nebraska Public Policy Center; the University of Nebraska - Lincoln Bureau of Sociological Research; Leadership Lincoln, Inc.; and the Lincoln Community Foundation. “The Foundation made this project possible by providing the majority of the funding, and we appreciate its support of our efforts,” said Beutler.

Elizabeth Neeley, Ph.D., Senior Research Manager for the Public Policy Center, said, “When respondents are forced to prioritize services, something has to come out on the bottom. However, low rankings for certain services do not mean those services are considered unimportant. On the contrary, a primary finding of the phone survey is that Lincoln residents appear to value and rate all City services with fairly high importance.”

Neeley also cautioned about making conclusions based on the responses to a single question. “The survey results should be considered in their entirety, like a book. Each question is like a chapter, which is only one part of the larger story,” she said.

One part of the survey asked which priority areas should be funded by the non-profit sector. The top three outcomes were economic opportunity, healthy people and quality of life.

Results also were released for the follow-up discussion April 12. About 50 of the residents who took the phone survey participated. Mayor Beutler said the event was educational for City directors and for those citizens participating.

“The phone survey shows that City government needs to do a better job of telling the budget story,” said Mayor Beutler. “The April 12th event demonstrated that citizen knowledge increased dramatically after City leaders had the opportunity to get the facts out. Keeping the public informed about the budget is very important if citizens are to play an active role in the process.”

Portions of the follow-up discussion were taped for viewing on 5 CITY-TV (cable channel 5) and through video-on-demand on the City Web site,

PRIORITY LINCOLN: We’re listening.


Service importance
   Average score - rated from 1 (little importance) to 10 (extreme importance):

  • Fire and ambulance service - 9.09
  • Police - 8.96
  • Management of sewage and storm water - 7.94
  • Maintenance and management of traffic flow - 7.79
  • Health department services - 7.79
  • Job creation and economic development - 7.75
  • Libraries - 7.66
  • Human services - 7.52
  • Parks, trails and recreation - 7.14
  • Building permits and safety - 7.14
  • Zoning and growth planning - 7.05
  • Public bus and transportation services - 6.88

Service priorities (Ranking of 12 listed above.)

  • 1. Police
  • 2. Fire and ambulance services
  • 11. Libraries
  • 12. Park, trails and recreation

Paying for services
   How would you recommend the City fund your two service priorities?

  • Make no change in spending - 9.41 %
  • Increase taxes - 15.16 %
  • Cut funds from bottom priorities - 33.62 %
  • Some other approach - 41.81 %

Outcome priorities
   Percentages of those wanting to maintain or increase funding and services:

  • Economic opportunity - maintain 41.2 %, increase 50.2 %
  • Effective transportation - maintain 52.6 %, increase 43.0 %
  • Environmental quality - maintain 69.7 %, increase 8.7 %
  • Equal access and diversity - maintain 59.0 %, increase 17.5 %
  • Healthy people - maintain 51.4 %, increase 42.4 %
  • Livable neighborhoods - maintain 62.7 %, increase 28.9 %
  • Quality of life - maintain 61.3 %, increase 25.5 %
  • Safety and security - maintain 51.6 %, increase 47.0 %

Outcome priorities (Ranking of eight listed above.)

  • 1. Safety and security
  • 2. Economic opportunity
  • 7. Effective transportation
  • 8. Equal access and diversity

Paying for priorities
   How would you recommend the City fund your top priority goal areas?

  • Make no change in spending - 16.18 %
  • Increase taxes - 16.7 %
  • Cut funds from bottom priorities - 34.25 %
  • Some other approach - 32.87 %

   To which one of the priority areas should business and community organizations focus their charitable funding?

  • Economic opportunity - 23.5 %
  • Health people - 21.6 %
  • Quality of life - 16.5 %
  • Other (liveable neighborhoods 11.3 %, safety and security 9.9 %, equal access and diversity 8.8 %, environmental quality 4.1 %, effective transportation 4.1 %)

Major new projects
   If the City of Lincoln were to undertake a new, major project, how would you want it funded?

  • Increase taxes - 12.48 %
  • Cut funds from other areas - 15.99 %
  • No new project - 18.28 %
  • Some other approach - 53.25 %

Public knowledge
   Only 20.6 percent of respondents knew that City government receives less than 15 percent of each dollar collected in property taxes.

Public trust and confidence
   Percentage of respondents who answered “agree” or “strongly agree” with the following statements about Lincoln City government -

  • Officials treat residents with respect. 67.9
  • Officials care about what people like me think. 59.7
  • Local government can usually be trusted to make decisions that are right for residents as a whole. 54.4
  • I am satisfied with local government. 53.5
  • Officials have residents’ best interests in mind when they make decisions. 52.8


  • Out of every property tax dollar paid by Lincoln homeowners, only 14.3 cents goes to support City government. An individual’s total property tax bill is determined by the budget actions of all governmental entities, including Lancaster County (13.7 cents) and the Lincoln Public Schools/ESUs (64.1 cents). Each elected body sets its tax rate independently.
  • The City receives 42 percent of its revenue from sales taxes and 30.7 percent from property taxes. Sales tax revenues grew during the 1990s as local retail construction increased to meet demand. In a recent study, the State Revenue Department concluded that Lincoln’s sales tax receipts have now leveled off as that demand has been met.
  • The City property tax rate has dropped 44.7 percent since 1993-94. The tax budget as a percentage of personal income has dropped from 1.65 to 1.4 percent from 1990 to 2004.
  • Of the state’s top ten largest cities, Lincoln’s City property tax rate is among the lowest, behind Bellevue, Hastings, North Platte, Omaha, Fremont and Columbus.
  • More than 50 percent of City tax dollars fund public safety services.
  • To balance the 2007-08 fiscal year budget, the City cut 63.5 positions, saving $2.8 million, including $1.8 million in tax funds.
  • Over the last decade, Lincoln’s population has grown by a number equal to the total size of Kearney. Since 1990-91, the City’s population has increased by 25.7 percent, and the City’s size has increased 39.1 percent. Over that same time period, the number of City employees other than public safety has decreased.
  • State law mandates that City salaries and benefits be comparable to those of other cities our size. Other expenses not under City control include fuel cost hikes, the overall inflation rate and State and federal mandates.
  • For the 2008-09 fiscal year, the City projects revenues to increase by $3.2 million and costs to increase by $9.1 million, leaving a gap of $5.9 million.


The City is partnering with Leadership Lincoln, Inc. on four of town hall meetings to allow residents another venue to express their opinions about budget priorities. Doors will open at 5:30 p.m., and the meetings will be from 6 to 8 p.m. The remaining meetings are:

  • April 24, LPS District Offices, 5901 “O” Street (This town hall is hosted by the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council, and young people are encouraged to attend.)
  • April 29, North Star High School, 5801 North 33rd Street
  • May 6, Lincoln High School, 2229 “J’ Street

The City is borrowing an audience response technology system from UNL to allow for instant feedback from those attending the town hall meetings. Citizens will be able to participate, using small remote devices to register their opinions.

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