GI City Council passes final budget without 7.75 FTEs previously approved

GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (KSNB) - Just one month after approving several new jobs in Grand Island, the City Council took that vote back and passed the budget Tuesday night with out any of them included. This means the Grand Island Fire Department will be staying understaffed a little bit longer while the council works on a plan.

The Grand Island City Council meets to discuss the budget. (Credit: Alicia Naspretto, KSNB)

"We were surprised, obviously. The council appreciated the data that was given back in the early part of the summer leading up to the August 6th vote," GI Firefighter Jared Stockwell said. "So it was quite a shock what took place last night to be honest."

The Grand Island Fire Department spent weeks presenting their data to the council, showing their call numbers increasing but the number of responders staying the same.

"Call volumes will continue to grow and raise," Stockwell said. "What the fear is though that because call volumes will raise and we didn't have the additional firefighters given is that now more calls would be put on hold and the time to be able to get to somebody will actually be longer and that's a problem."

Mayor Roger Steele says he understands the importance of these added positions, but he's proud of the City Council for not continuing with them without the budget.

"The problem is there was no ongoing stable source of revenue to pay for these employees and that's required by city policies," Mayor Steele said. "Last night the council changed it's mind and I think it's justified in doing so."

The City Council did have an opportunity to bring in some extra money with a vote on increasing property tax. They did vote to pass it, but the Mayor vetoed that vote saying property taxes are high enough.

"I think property taxes are high enough, I don't want to see them go higher," Mayor Steele said. "My veto stands and there will not be an increase in property tax for residents of Grand Island this year."

Mayor Steele says this isn't the end for the fire fighters or the other departments requesting employees. He recently started a Budget Policy Committee with the goal of finding room in the budget to bring them all on in the future.