FAQs


1. What did the Lincoln Citizens’ Transportation Coalition recommend?
The Lincoln Citizens’ Transportation Coalition, made up of 27 residents, business and community leaders, uncovered a $33 million annual gap in funding to meet the City’s transportation needs. 

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To fill that gap, the Coalition recommended that the City:

  • Employ additional cost-saving measures and new technologies to stretch each transportation dollar as far as it can go;

  • Pursue 24 best practices to streamline processes and optimize operations;

  • Boost funding for streets using a local option sales tax, rather than increasing property or wheel taxes.

Sales tax was selected as the best funding strategy because residents and visitors alike shoulder the cost.

2. Why is there a $33 million annual gap in street funding?

The Citizens’ Transportation Coalition spent several months evaluating the transportation facilities in Lincoln and found a gap of $21 million per year that was needed to better preserve our existing streets and transportation system, especially in residential areas. Seven million dollars per year was needed to upgrade traffic signals and intersections to enhance traffic flow, and $5 million per year to help address community growth and new streets. It should be noted that Lincoln spends about $2,400 per lane mile on street maintenance, compared to the average of the peer communities that spends $10,000 per lane mile. The largest gap in funding is seen in street maintenance and repair of existing streets.

3. Why is it important that the gap be addressed now?

The City has learned that investing more in street repairs today means avoiding more expensive street work in the future. For every dollar spent on maintenance now, saves the City $8 to $15 in high-cost repairs later.  (See table below.) 

58% of streets need minor repair and preventive maintenance


29% of streets need resurfacing or rehabilitation


13% of streets need rebuilding or reconstruction


More than $600 million backlog in growth-related projects

 $3,000 - $80,000
Per lane mile*

$600,000
Per lane mile

$1.5 million
Per lane mile

$12 million
Per lane mile

*One mile of four-lane street has four lane miles.

With $13 million annually over six years, the City can bring more streets into the preventive maintenance and minor repair category, saving more money for major safety improvements or expanding our arterial system.

Also, constructing and resurfacing streets is getting more expensive every year. The City’s portion of the South Beltway was $50 million, alone.  Inflation on construction has been steadily growing 5 percent annually, outpacing the growth in funding for local streets. For instance, the federal gas tax hasn’t been increased in 26 years. 

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The Lincoln Citizens’ Transportation Coalition helped define the public needs for their transportation system, how much it costs and what our community can reasonably afford.

4. What will this sales tax increase do for the City?

The ¼ cent sales tax will provide:

  • $13 million annually to improve only streets

  • Four times the number of resurfaced residential streets annually (more than 300 blocks each year).

  • 25 percent of revenue dedicated to expanding or building new streets that support economic growth.

5. How was the gap calculated?

The gap was calculated taking a number of different factors into consideration:

  • The goals of the Long Range Transportation Plan adopted through 2040;

  • Industry cost comparisons for various street treatment and repair options, including cost of inflation;

  • Historical street maintenance costs in Lincoln;

  • Expected cost savings and efficiencies through adoption of best practices;

  • Coalition’s evaluation of community expectations;

  • Peer studies evaluating expenditures of peer cities to accomplish similar programs.

6. How much money does the Wheel tax generate for transportation infrastructure now?

The wheel tax generates approximately $19 million of the $60 million the City spends annually on the transportation system. The Lincoln Municipal Code is very clear that wheel tax can only be spent on transportation needs. It also requires that the Department of Transportation and Utilities spend certain percentages on certain types of services. Follow this link to Section 3.20.220 of the code: http://online.encodeplus.com/regs/lincoln-ne/doc-viewer.aspx#secid-6970.

By code, Wheel Tax can only be spent as follows:

·        Residential Streets - $2.8 Milllion (14.86%)

·         Street Construction - $6.6 M (35.14%)

·        Street Improvements, Operations, and Maintenance - $9.5 M (50%)

14.86 percent is used solely to rehabilitate residential streets – LTU usually does so with a one- to two-inch mill and asphalt overlay. 35.14 percent is used for major street construction projects, new growth projects, bridge rehab and construction. Finally, 50 percent of the wheel tax generated is used for street maintenance and operations, such as pothole patching (LTU fills about 40,000 each year), concrete replacement, street sweeping, traffic signals and signs operations, emergency operations and traffic control.

7. Why has sales tax been recommended for streets?

In addition to identifying about $2 million in cost savings, a majority of the Transportation Coalition members supported raising sales tax to close the annual transportation funding gap, rather than other funding options like raising property or wheel tax. Here’s why:

  • It is estimated over 30 percent of sales tax generated is paid by non-residents, visiting Lincoln and using the City’s streets.

  • A 1/4 cent sales tax will cost 2.5 cents on a $10 purchase.

  • By comparison, the wheel tax would almost double in order to provide the same level of support for streets (from $74 to $132 per year).

  • Property taxes would have to increase about $117 per year for an average household to generate an equivalent amount of streets funding.

8. How long will the sales tax increase be in place?

If passed by voters, the sales tax initiative that City leaders place on the April 9 ballot will last six years – October 1, 2019 through September 30, 2025.

9. How much revenue does the sales tax provide?

1/4 cent raises approximately $13 million per year.

 10. Can this sales tax be used for anything else but street work?

No. The revenue from any additional sales taxes must go toward street work – curb to curb.  No other transportation facilities, City departments or projects can benefit from this ¼ cent sales tax revenue.

 11. How can the public be sure that the money is being spent efficiently and on priority programs?

The construction program will be accountable to the public in three ways:

  • City budget approval – The projects must be approved through the City Council’s budget process with vetting by City leaders.

  • Annual program reports to the City Council and Mayor’s office

  • Citizen oversight – The Advisory Committee for Transportation (ACT) will be assembled. It will meet regularly to help review program goals, projects and progress and ensure equitable distribution of funding and projects across the City.

12.      How will the sales tax impact my personal budget?

A ¼ cent sales tax is 2.5 cents on a $20 purchase and 25 cents on a $100 purchase.  The average annual impact can vary depending on how much each resident spends annually.  That impact has been estimated anywhere between $31 annually to $45.  The most recent studies suggest that $45 is more consistent with today’s annual average income in Lincoln.

13.  Are groceries taxed?

No. Groceries are not taxed by this sales tax.

14.  How are streets being prioritized in the City budget?

The City has increased its investment in streets more than 71 percent over the last 10 years. Still, the Coalition’s study shows that the City has been doing more with less. The Coalition study found the amount spent annually wasn’t enough to meet resident expectations and community growth. The City of Lincoln spends an average of $2,400 per lane mile.  That equates to each resident paying 15 cents per day to preserve and maintain 2,900 lane miles of City streets.

 15.  How much money can you save by implementing the cost saving measures and best practices?

It varies from practice to practice, but one example of cost savings is reducing the width of non-arterial streets from 12 feet to 11. That represents a savings of $500,000/mile in construction. Already, 19 of the 24 best practices are completed or underway, showing annual savings of approximately $1.5 to $2 million per year.  The remainder of the best practices will be pursued as more funding becomes available.

Another example is in pavement management theory – where we “keep the good streets good.” By doing low-cost, low-impact, routine maintenance on our streets we save money later. For every dollar spent on maintenance now, it saves us $8 to 15 in high-cost repairs later.

16. What did the Coalition study?

The Coalition met over a five-month period; took public comment and heard from technical experts; and reviewed documents, system analysis, and budget needs as well as revenue generating mechanisms.

 The Coalition examined:

  • The current condition and funding structure of Lincoln’s transportation network.

  • The desired level of service and condition of the transportation system and associated costs.

  • How to implement and fund the desired transportation system with specific recommendations from the Coalition.

  • The current condition and funding structure of Lincoln’s transportation network.

  • The desired level of service and condition of the transportation system and associated costs.

  • How to implement and fund the desired transportation system with specific recommendations from the Coalition.

17.  What about inflation?  Is it true that construction inflation is 5 percent per year?

Yes. The Coalition conducted an economic analysis of all sources of transportation funding, and the impact of construction inflation on the City’s ability to deliver much needed projects.

18.  How was the visitor contribution to sales tax calculated?

Economic & Planning Systems conducted the study. EPS is a national economic analysis firm based in California with regional offices across the nation.  This firm assisted the Lincoln Citizens’ Transportation Coalition with financial and economic analysis.

19.  Why not bond your transportation dollars like Omaha has?

The Transportation Coalition believed the most fiscally responsible approach to keep our streets in good condition is to “pay as you go” rather than borrowing and committing the City to increased debt.

20.  Can the City make up the street funding gap by cutting other programs?

The proposed sales tax increase will generate about $13 million annually. It would be difficult to find those funds elsewhere in the budget for these reasons:

  • Public safety -- Police, Fire and 911 -- make up more than 50 percent of the budget.  Public safety is the number one priority identified by citizens.

  • Personnel makes up about 64 percent of the budget. 

  • The City has reduced the size of the non-public safety workforce.  Since the 2006-07 fiscal year, the City has grown 13.5 percent in population and 10.5 percent in area.  Over that same time, the number of non-public safety employees has decreased by 82 employees, about 5.5 percent.

  • Through the Taking Charge process, the City worked with citizens to prioritize every City program.    The prioritized list, which includes the cost of the programs, is available at lincoln.ne.gov (keyword:  Taking Charge).   Tier 1 programs are the highest priority, and Tier 3 are the lowest.  

Eliminating all Tier 3 programs would only save about $3.5 million.  Tier 3 includes Sunday hours at Bennett Martin Public Library; the operation and maintenance of neighborhood pools; alarm response; protective custody of intoxicated persons; services to crime victims and witnesses; non-injury traffic crash reporting; parking and abandoned vehicle enforcement; and lower priority snow removal.

21. How is the City funding streets now and how is that money being used?

An overview of City street funding and how it is used is outlined in the table below.

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