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Gering sales tax to be decided by voters
May 06, 2016 Jerry Purvis   

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On May 10, Gering voters will be asked to renew a one percent city sales tax that has been in effect for the past 26 years.

The sales tax should bring in an estimated $700,000 annually to Gering. Fifty percent of those funds are earmarked for property tax reduction. Thirty percent is used for downtown development and 20 percent goes to tourism.

The sales tax is a big reason the property tax for Gering has remained steady for the past several years.

“Without those funds, we would lose around $360,000 in property tax relief,” said Gering City Treasurer John Mejia. “The council wants to keep the tax levy down and the sales tax allows us to do that.”

A loss of about $360,000 would have a big impact on Gering’s general fund. A shortfall would have to be made up by either raising other taxes, or cutting costs and services. “The city doesn’t want to reduce the services it currently provides to the residents,” Mejia said. “A loss that big would have to be made up somewhere.”

Another 30 percent of sales tax dollars are used for downtown development. Gering has started a number of those projects recently with the upcoming downtown plaza. Mejia said a number of new businesses have also come in. “We’re starting to have more activity and starting to clean up the downtown area from some of the old structures,” he said. “It’s important to have funds available to help with those kinds of projects.”

The remaining 20 percent of the one percent city sales tax is earmarked for tourism promotion. It’s the primary source of operating funds for the Gering Convention and Visitors Bureau (GCVB).

“Tourism is a major economic driver for Gering,” said GCVB Executive Director Karla Niedan-Streeks. “Our portion of the city sales tax allows us to promote our destination to the visitor market. Those visitors represent a wide variety of groups.”

GCVB has promoted the area to the convention market, to leisure travel groups, to those interested in sports and recreation, history, and many others market segments.

Niedan-Streeks said her bureau’s job is to package every component of the community which might interest visitors. “We reach out to people around the region, nationally, and internationally to extend an invitation to visit Gering and spend time in our community,” she said.

Visitors to the area also pay the sales tax, which helps in future promotions. One of the major events on the calendar for next year is a total solar eclipse. People from around the world are expected to flock to west Nebraska, a prime viewing area.

The tourism portion of the sales tax also goes toward promotion and development of Five Rocks Amphitheater and the Robidoux RV Park, immediately to the east.

The sales tax renewal, Proposition No. 1, will appear May 10 on the Gering primary ballot.

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