Stothert Talks Budget First Day in Office
New mayor makes good on campaign promisePhoto: Video by kmtv.com
Omaha, NE-The first day on the job for Omaha's new mayor, and Jean Stothert is making good on a campaign promise. She showed off her new car Tuesday, but said she's paying for it all.
Outcry over an SUV dogged former mayor Jim Suttle in his first few days. Mayor Stothert is putting the brakes on any potential car controversy. Stothert is tackling two back to back budget shortfalls in the millions and she says her new ride is one way she is saving money.
The car is a 2013 ford fusion hybrid. She says it gets 100 miles to the gallon on the highway on charge. Stothert's paying for the car lease, gas, and insurance. She's also driving herself.
Stothert also announced she will only have security as needed, for example, during the college World Series.
"I have met with the police chief this morning and my chief of staff. There will be occasions they prefer I have some sort of security with me and if we do that, we are going to pay them on an hourly basis. But to have someone permanently assigned to drive me around, I am not going to do that," she said.
Stothert's also cut two staff positions from her office and implemented at salary freeze for the mayor. She says next step is looking at all the departments and their budgets. She's been working with a finance team since Friday on just that. Tuesday, she told reporters believe the fire department could be better managed.
"You know it has been over budget for years, it's over budget already this year. And I think it's a matter of not being able to manage a budget in a department in a fiscally responsible manner."
Another issue with the fire department and budget is the 47 new recruits that graduated from the fire academy in May. Stothert says those positions weren't budgets for.
"They are causing quite an overage in the fire department budget in fact they're responsible for most of the eight million dollars that they are budgeted for this time," she said.
Tuesday night Fire Chief Mike McDonnell by phone. He says the city finance department recommended that he hire the 47 new firefighters and that doing so would save the city one million dollars.
McDonnell says that in December 2012, months after the city council approved the 2013 budget; the council approved a new firefighter's union contract.
"Part of that contract mandated the department hire rank for rank, and pay time and a half for call-backs," McDonnell said.
McDonnell said he is following the letter of that contract, and that paying the overtime for call-backs for higher paid senior members of the fire department would be more expensive than paying for new employees.