City-County Building

Paul Cohen, building commission administrator, said the commission hasn’t had enough money to make repairs such as fixing crumbling sidewalks outside the City-County Building.

The Omaha-Douglas Public Building Commission will consider a budget Tuesday that includes an increase in its property tax levy.

The proposal calls for the building commission’s levy to go up from 1.5 cents per $100 in valuation to 1.7 cents. That would result in a $2 annual increase on a $100,000 home, said Paul Cohen, building commission administrator.

The commission will discuss the proposal at its meeting scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Tuesday in the legislative chambers of the City-County Building, 1819 Farnam St.

The commission oversees the Douglas County Courthouse and City-County Building. The members are two representatives each from the Omaha City Council and Douglas County Board, plus a chairman from the community, currently John Christensen.

The proposed increase would raise the levy to the maximum allowed by Nebraska law. Cohen told the commission that it’s needed to pay for building maintenance. He said the commission hasn’t had enough money to make repairs such as fixing crumbling sidewalks outside the City-County Building.

Cohen also said the increase follows the recommendations of the commission’s bond counsel. He said bond-rating agencies have been pushing the commission to raise its levy to the maximum so bond issuers can be assured that they’ll be paid back. He said not doing so could threaten the commission’s AAA bond rating.

The commission has been borrowing money for courthouse renovations and other projects. It’s considering issuing as much as $120 million in bonds for a potential new juvenile justice center, county offices and parking garage project in conjunction with Douglas County.

Omaha City Council member Aimee Melton, a member of the commission, said she opposes the levy increase. She said Cohen “runs a tight ship” and the commission staff does an excellent job, but she isn’t convinced the increase is necessary.

County Board Member Mike Boyle, a commission member, said the increase is necessary.

“The expenses don’t go down, they go up,” he said.

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Chris Burbach covers the Douglas County Board, Planning Board and other local government bodies, as well as local neighborhood issues. Follow him on Twitter @chrisburbach. Phone: 402-444-1057.

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