Mayor Jean Stothert says city department directors have submitted 2014 budgets that exceed forecast revenue by $20 million.
Stothert directed each department to cut its budget to certain targets on Friday, though she declined to discuss the recommended allocations.
“We asked them to give us our very best effort to reduce,” Stothert told The World-Herald. Those figures are due to the Mayor's Office by Wednesday, she said.
“I want to see what they're going to bring back to us.”
Stothert said she asked her directors not to violate any city labor contracts or risk public safety when making cuts.
“It's a challenge, but I truly feel like every single budget should be a struggle every single year when you're dealing with taxpayer money,” she said. “It should never be easy.”
A tax increase “is out of the question for me,” Stothert said.
“I told them that's not going to be considered in my administration with this budget,” Stothert said. “I said we will balance it, and we will balance it another way.”
The revenue shortfall has shifted as department directors and the Mayor's Office prepare the budget. Stothert last said the 2014 shortfall was about $16.5 million.
Money can be transferred into the budget to offset a considerable portion of the shortfall, though those steps must be approved by the City Council.
Stothert said any extra money should not change directors' attitudes when it comes to cutting their budgets.
“We don't want to go there yet,” she said. “In an ideal world, I would like to put some money in cash reserve, but if your option is laying off people or not putting money in cash reserve, I don't want to lay off people.
“You always have some options to work with, but I first want the directors to try to achieve that target budget that we gave them today. We'll evaluate it.”
Stothert also named a former City of Omaha personnel director as her new human resources director on Friday. Michele Frost was personnel director from 1995 to 2001 under Mayor Hal Daub.
“I am excited to welcome Mikki back to city government,” Stothert said in a statement. “Her experience in the public and private sectors will be an asset to the city of Omaha, the taxpayers and our employees.”
Most recently, Frost has worked for Alegent Creighton Health as director of community benefits and healthier communities.
Her city salary will be $140,000, less than the $145,000 budgeted this year for the human resources director. Steve Kerrigan will continue to serve in an interim capacity until Frost starts working full time.
Frost will start in August, though Stothert said she'll assist in the search for a new planning director.
World-Herald staff writer Jeffrey Robb contributed to this report.
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