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City council holding special meeting for public input on biennial budget

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Fremont City Council

Dodge County Courthouse.

The Fremont City Council will hold a special meeting to discuss and have public input on the city’s biennial 2022-2023 budget.

The meeting will start at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 3, 2021 at the Fremont Municipal Building’s City Council Chambers on the second floor.

Director of Finance Jody Sanders said the meeting will be open-ended and will feature no presentations in place by staff.

“It’s not my expectation that I will do anything other than take notes, to listen to what people have to say about the budget.”

According to Legislative Bill 148, introduced in 2019 by Sen. Mike Groene of North Platte and approved by Gov. Pete Ricketts on Feb. 13, 2020, a budget hearing must be held separately from a scheduled council meeting and not be restricted by time.

“And when we have that hearing, we have to have all of the elements ready for that,” Sanders said. “So we can’t do it before Aug. 20 when the valuations come from the county, because that’s one of the things that we have to publish for the public meeting notice.”

Sanders said the special meeting to hold the public hearing on the budget is currently set for Sept. 7.

Those unable to attend the meeting in person can watch via livestream on YouTube or through Zoom by visiting zoom.us/j/91464913418.

People wishing to make a comment through Zoom must press *9. Once called upon to speak by Mayor Joey Spellerberg, press *6 to unmute and speak and *6 again to mute when done.

The council discussed large capital projects regarding the budget during a special meeting held on July 13. The projects discussed included the construction of a joint law enforcement center, road reconstruction projects and a neighborhood pool.

The project listing did not include a new fire station or a remodel of the existing station, with a staff report from Sanders citing the ongoing study for the Fremont Fire Department.

A June 25 draft of the 2022-2023 budget presented to the city council two days later has total expenditures for 2022 at $25,747,982 and 2023 at $33,955,658.

The last biennial budget was passed by the council at its meeting on Sept. 10, 2019. It conducted three study sessions related to the budget during the course of seven weeks before its unanimous approval.

"We will pass a reconciliation bill if we need it," said Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.Reconciliation is the latest "it" word on Capitol Hill. That's because it may be the best shot Democrats have at passing President Joe Biden's COVID-19 relief plan."We're keeping all options open on the table, including using budget reconciliation," said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.Reconciliation is a special procedure that allows bills to pass the Senate with a simple majority, and it was designed to be used for the annual budget. "Congress begins with a budget reconciliation bill that sets out kind of the spending targets. It's a chance to take what are their spending priorities, and then say, 'What needs to change in current law to kind of fit within that framework?'" said Laurel Harbridge-Yong, an associate professor of political science and faculty fellow at Northwestern University. It's a way to bypass the 60 votes need to overcome a filibuster. "Over time, obviously, strategic politicians recognized that this was a great way to avoid the supermajority requirement," said Harbridge-Yong.The reconciliation process was used most recently to pass the Trump administration's 2017 tax cuts. It was also used to pass the Affordable Care Act in 2010 under President Obama."It is not designed necessarily do any of these things. It's supposed to be part of passing a budget for the country in normal order. However, the rules can be shoehorned to pass these types of big one time bills," said Adam Michel, a senior policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation.There are restrictions on what can be passed using this procedure. Reconciliation bills can only change policies that affect government spending or government revenue, and they must be deficit neutral over 10 years. "We saw this in the 2017 tax bill. Republicans had to make big pieces of it temporary in order to get around that rule that says you can't be making big changes to the deficit outside of the budget window," said Michel.Looking at President Biden's COVID-19 relief proposal, many elements do fit the definition of government spending direct payments to Americans, buying and distributing vaccines, and paying for contact tracers, for example. But some Republicans in Congress say using the filibuster-proof reconciliation process does not encourage bipartisanship on Capitol Hill. "But it certainly suggests that the Democrats would not have to move legislation as close to the preferences of the legislators in the Republican party as they would if they were passing legislation in a world where the filibuster was an option," says Harbridge-Yong. 

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