Mayor: Budget Shortfall Larger Than Expected
Mayor Jim Suttle says that contract is keeping him from balancing the city's checkbook. The Omaha City Council thought the budget shortfall would be about $6 million when they approved the fire contract in December 2012. Now the City of Omaha Finance Department estimates closer to $7.3 million is needed to pay for training paramedics, and wage increases that couldn't be more accurately calculated.
"It was based on these particular assumptions, what's the best number that you can come up with? I'm confident this is the best number that they could come up with based on those assumptions,” said Bernard in den Bosch, the Assistant Omaha City Attorney.
Councilmembers with the Finance Committee met with the interim director to find out exactly where the larger estimate was coming from.
"I'm not going to sit here today and say we agree with all the numbers. We're waiting to see the research on the further details," said Omaha City Council President Tom Mulligan.
Mulligan says the council voted to put $5.2 million aside in 2011, from Omaha’s Restaurant Tax, for issues like these. The mayor says he'd like to use this fund, and is checking other options to solve the shortfall in the city council's fire contract.
Mulligan says though he doesn't agree with the estimate, he feels like the council's agreement with the Firefighters Association was still a good business decision.
"The contract we negotiated with firefighters for the City of Omaha is saving $125 million more than what the mayor negotiated with the firefighters," Mulligan explained.
Mulligan says with a budget the size of the fire department he thinks they can manage that throughout the year, so they don't have to take from other places for the rest of the money.