|Gering moving toward sales tax|
|August 12, 2016 Jerry Purvis|
The Gering City Council has taken another step toward getting a proposal on the November ballot that would increase the city sales tax by one-half percent, to be used strictly for infrastructure projects.
At its Monday meeting, council members unanimously approved an ordinance to create a community redevelopment authority, as required state statute, before the sales tax initiative may be submitted to the voters on Nov. 8.
“We’ve been very open with the public about this proposed additional sales tax,” said Gering Mayor Tony Kaufman. “The council reached a consensus we should move this forward and let the voters decide.”
The additional one-half percent sales tax would create an infrastructure fund to help finance improvements to storm sewer drains, streets, and replacing some aging water pipes that date back to the early 1900s.
“It is a tax, but as a sales tax it’s shared with more than just residents,” Kaufman said. “We have a significant amount of infrastructure issues in Gering. I’ve consistently heard from people and we need to address those problems. The budget allows us to get some projects done, but unfortunately, we just can’t get caught up with the money we have.”
He added the additional sales tax would give the city a significant advantage because with low bond rates, they could get a number of projects done at the same time.
“No one likes to hear the tax word, but it’s something the people should consider,” he said. “We need to continue to grow our community, so this proposal isn’t something we take lightly.”
Scottsbluff voters rejected a similar ballot initiative in the May primary. However, they didn’t get a group of citizen to promote the effort.
Kaufman said some of the resistance to a sales tax hike comes from a lack of understanding of what the city is proposing.
“Once we explain to people what this is about, it makes a lot of sense,” he said. “The tax isn’t going into our general fund, but is specifically for infrastructure improvements. I know people can identify projects where it’s needed, often in their own neighborhoods.”
A group of community minded residents are assembling to reach out to residents and explain how the proposed one-half percent sales tax would benefit Gering’s streets, storm drains and water system.