Mayor Stothert holds fire budget to $90.6 million -
Published Tuesday, July 23, 2013 at 2:00 pm / Updated at 1:32 pm
Mayor Stothert holds fire budget to $90.6 million

Mayor Jean Stothert is sticking to her plan to give $90.6 million of next year's general fund budget to the Fire Department — and no more.

The mayor's fire budget proposal, as promised, would remove rigs from service, lay off and demote firefighters but still deliver $8.2 million in additional funding compared with this year's budget.

Stothert's suggested funding for the Police Department, meanwhile, includes plans to hire new staff to bring the department up to its approved level and to make special equipment purchases.

Collectively, Omaha's public safety agencies make up the bulk of increased spending in next year's budget for basic city operations.

Overall, Stothert proposes to increase the general fund by roughly $18.8 million. That includes some $11 million in additional spending for police and fire — two department with the largest budgets.

Some expenses are tied to a fire union labor contract that the mayor must follow. Other costs are part of Stothert's campaign pledges to boost public safety.

In her campaign, Stothert called for safer streets and additional police officers, while she tangled with fire officials over a labor contract she helped negotiate with a group of City Council members.

She regularly praises Police Chief Todd Schmaderer and his department's willingness to cooperate in developing the 2014 budget. But she makes no secret of her desire to cut Fire Department expenses and replace Fire Chief Mike McDonnell.

The Police Department's proposed $124 million budget for next year includes a roughly $2.9 million bump. There's extra money appropriated to the Police Chief's Office, the criminal investigations bureau, and the budget for rank and file officers.

Stothert said she plans to use lease-purchase bonds to acquire 755 new portable police radios to replace aging equipment and plans to continue a program that replaces worn-out police cruisers.

Money is set aside in another account to pay for a 2 percent police wage increase, and negotiations on a new police contract are set to begin in the coming months. A new recruit class, meant to bring the sworn ranks up to the 804 officers budgeted for this year, is scheduled to begin in the spring.

But Stothert's proposal also slashes about $4.5 million from a police bureau assigned to observe department spending and manage the air support unit.

As for the Fire Department, Stothert describes her $90.6 million general fund budget proposal as a compromise born from weeks of tense exchanges with McDonnell and department officials.

She initially told the Fire Department to come up with an $83 million budget.

McDonnell offered up a roughly $96 million plan, which he eventually cut, by only about $2 million.

Stothert settled on a budget that could include 16 firefighter layoffs, eight demotions and two rigs pulled from service.

The Fire Department currently has 657 sworn staff members, though city finance officials say the number of sworn fire personnel will be capped at 638 next year. As staff retires or leaves the job, some downsizing through attrition is possible.

Stothert said she will move for the department to use outside contractors to operate a paramedic training program that might save a couple hundred thousand dollars.

The mayor and fire officials still differ on the exact fiscal requirements of the latest labor contract. Stothert said she's open to other suggestions to reduce spending, but that her proposed reductions don't violate the contract or reduce public safety.

Fire union officials promise a lawsuit to fight any potential layoffs.

Stothert said the fire budget she's proposed is largely tied to salary increases included in the contract.

“All labor contracts cost money,” Stothert said. “They have salary and benefits in it. You can't have a labor contract that's not going to cost money.”

World-Herald staff writer Erin Golden contributed to this report.

Teen killed at Gallagher Park was shot in head as he sat in SUV, friend who was wounded says
PAC funded by Senate candidate Ben Sasse's great-uncle releases Shane Osborn attack ad
Nikko Jenkins found guilty of 4 murders
High school slam poets don't just recite verses, 'they leave their hearts beating on the stage'
Attorney: Man accused of trying to open plane's door needs psychiatric evaluation
49-year-old sentenced to 40-50 years for attempted sex assault of child
Brothers looking for pot sentenced for violent home invasion
At Boys Town panel, experts stress it's never too early to educate children
Kelly: New $24M UNO center embodies spirit of newlywed crash victim
Gov. Heineman calls 2014 a 'very good year for Nebraska taxpayers'
Ex-Iowan behind landmark free speech case recounts story in Bellevue
Arrest made in teen's shooting death at Benson's Gallagher Park
Section of 50th Street to close for bridge demolition
Rather than doing $250K in repairs, owner who lives in lot behind 94-year-old house in Dundee razes it
Plans for new $16M YMCA in Council Bluffs at 'critical juncture'
Woodmen request would take nearly $40M in valuation from tax rolls
With fixed AC, Fort Calhoun's nuclear station ends brief shutdown
Windy day could make driving difficult on east-west roads
Richard Brown steps down as Charles Drew Health Center CEO
OPD safety expo set for April 26
Database: How much did Medicare pay your doctor?
Crew working to disassemble International Nutrition plant
New public employee pay data: Douglas, Lancaster, Sarpy Counties, plus utilities
18-year-old arrested in stolen-car case
U.S. Senate candidate Bart McLeay trails his 3 GOP rivals in fundraising
< >
Kelly: New $24M UNO center embodies spirit of newlywed crash victim
Jessica Lutton Bedient was killed by a drunken driver at age 26 in 2010. Thursday, the widowed husband and other family members will gather with others at the University of Nebraska at Omaha to dedicate a permanent memorial to Jessica.
Breaking Brad: How much would you pay for a corn dog?
The Arizona Diamondbacks have a new concession item: a $25 corn dog. For that kind of money, it should be stuffed with Bitcoin.
Breaking Brad: Pothole repair crew gets stuck in a pothole
In East Lansing, Mich., a pothole repair crew got stuck inside a pothole. How did this not happen in Omaha?
Breaking Brad: What do the moon, Colorado senators have in common?
How about that "blood red" moon Monday? It was as red as the eyes of a Colorado legislator.
Breaking Brad: Hey, Republicans, are you ready to be audited?
A quick list of audit red flags: 3) You fail to sign your return. 2) You fail to report income. 1) You are a registered Republican.
Deadline Deal thumbnail
Shoreline Golf Club
$40 for 2 Players, 18 Holes of Golf with Cart ($85 Value)
Buy Now
< >
Omaha World-Herald Contests
Enter for a chance to win great prizes.
OWH Store: Buy photos, books and articles
Buy photos, books and articles
Travel Snaps Photo
Going on Vacation? Take the Omaha World-Herald with you and you could the next Travel Snaps winner.
Click here to donate to Goodfellows
The 2011 Goodfellows fund drive provided holiday meals to nearly 5,000 families and their children, and raised more than $500,000 to help families in crisis year round.
Want to get World-Herald stories sent directly to your home or work computer? Sign up for's News Alerts and you will receive e-mails with the day's top stories.
Can't find what you need? Click here for site map »