Minimum Wage Increases Impact City Department Budgets

The directors of two city departments in Lincoln, Nebraska, have expressed concerns about the impact of minimum wage increases on their budgets. Ryan Wieber, the director of city libraries, informed the City Council that personnel costs would rise by approximately $130,000 in 2024-25 and close to $195,000 the following year due to the minimum wage hikes. This increase is primarily attributed to the fact that nearly 60% of the library staff works part-time. Similarly, the Parks and Recreation Department, which hires numerous seasonal workers, expects personnel costs to increase by over $179,000 in 2025-26 as a result of the minimum wage hike.

The minimum wage in Lincoln was increased from $9 an hour to $15 an hour by 2026, with incremental raises each year. However, the rising minimum wage is not the only factor contributing to increased personnel costs for the city departments. Inflation, a tight job market, and recent public safety union contracts have also impacted personnel expenses.

In addition to the budgetary challenges posed by minimum wage increases, the city libraries are facing rising costs associated with the growing demand for digital content. While print materials still account for 70% of items checked out, the cost of digital versions is significantly higher. The library leases digital content through subscriptions, which requires careful management to control costs.

The Lincoln Police Department is currently understaffed, with 334 officers out of the allocated 371 positions. To address the shortage, the department has utilized online recruiting efforts, which have attracted candidates from as far as Chicago and New York. The department has also implemented programs to increase diversity among recruits, including partnerships with Southeast Community College and tuition reimbursement for law enforcement officers and their dependents.

Any savings from unfilled police positions are allocated to a “reappropriation fund,” which is used for overtime pay, hiring retired personnel part-time, retirement payouts, equipment, and capital improvements. Recent reappropriation amounts have ranged from $1.5 million to $2.3 million and have funded various improvements, such as new police facilities, body cameras, and tasers.

Steve Hubka, a former finance department employee, will temporarily fill the position of Lyn Heaton, who is resigning as the city’s finance director. Hubka retired in 2016 after a long career with the city, and his experience will be valuable during the ongoing budget process.

In other news, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has appointed Derek Chollet, a Lincoln Southeast graduate, as the Pentagon’s new chief of staff. Chollet, who has served in various roles within the Obama administration and as an aide to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, brings extensive experience to his new position.

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