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Gering to consider sales tax hike
December 18, 2015 Jerry Purvis   

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The Gering City Council will meet in January to discuss whether to place an issue on the May primary ballot to increase Gering’s city sales tax by one-half percent.

The current sales tax is two percent for the city and five percent for the state. The hike, if approved, would raise Gering’s overall sales tax to 7.5 percent.

Gering Mayor Tony Kaufman said the unanimous council vote would send the proposal to the joint Administrative and Public Works Committees, whose membership includes the full council. That meeting could take place during the first city council meeting in January 2016.

“State statute gives communities the opportunity the increase their sales tax by up to a half percent for specific projects,” Kaufman said. “Plus, the proposal has to go to a vote of the residents.”

Kaufman said in Gering’s case, they’re exploring using the additional sales tax revenue for infrastructure improvements, such as new sewer and water lines and street improvement projects.

“Anyone who drives around town knows our streets are aging,” he said. “This would give us a consistent source of revenue to perhaps fund a bond to do a lot of projects at once.”

Small, rural communities across America are always challenged to find the necessary funding to keep their infrastructure up to date, as costs continue to rise and it becomes more difficult to complete large projects with limited resources.

“I’m glad the Legislature was forward thinking enough to include this provision to allow communities to increase their sales tax,” Kaufman said. “The nice thing about a sales tax is that it’s somewhat of a deferred tax. It’s paid by everyone who shops here.”

He added the city has been looking for some time for a consistent revenue stream for infrastructure projects. “There are neighborhoods in our community that are 100 years old,” he said. “We spend a lot of time and resources just for emergency repairs. This additional revenue stream would free up our budget for other much-needed projects. But ultimately, it comes down to the voters.”

If approved by the voters, the additional one-half percent sales tax would generate between $375,000 and $400,000 annually, which would be dedicated to bond payments for large infrastructure improvement projects.
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