Sales Tax Debate

Those supporting a sales tax increase ballot issue in Plattsmouth presented Chamber of Commerce members and interested members of the public with their strategy.

About three dozen people listened to a panel of speakers and asked questions at the most recent Chamber Business to Business Luncheon.

“One of the biggest obstacles is people not knowing all the facts,” said Brad Ksiazek, one of the speakers.

Explaining those points to the voters is a key part of the strategy.

The November 10th mail-in election has two questions:

-Proposition #1 would increase the city sales tax from 1% to 1.5%. The additional .5% would be used for sidewalk and street improvements and maintenance. The other 1% would continue to be evenly split between real property tax relief and economic development as it has been since 2002.

-Proposition #2 would remove the limitation on the duration of the city’s sales tax. The current 1% is to “sunset” in 2012.

The additional half-cent sales tax idea was first floated a few months ago as a way to fund Main Street sidewalk and other improvements as documented in the “Downtown Streetscape.”

That downtown plan is not a city-approved project at this time thus the project is not specified in Proposition #1.

A recently revised plan to fix the combined sewer overflow—installing sanitary sewer under sidewalks on the south side of Main Street instead of in the alley between Main and 1st Avenue (archives 6/18/09)—accelerated the timing of the sales tax election issue. Proponents point out that sidewalk construction is imminent on the south side of Main anyway, so they say that would be an ideal time to implement all enhancements in the downtown plan.

Cass County Nebraska Economic Development Council Executive Director John Yochum said improving downtown should be looked at “as a way to lure and grow business” which can have an impact not only for Plattsmouth but across the county.

While Highway 75 business development is likely for larger retailers and chain restaurants at some point in the future, Plattsmouth Historic Preservation Board Chairman Rich McKinley said the vision for downtown is to “create a tourist destination” with “several niche shops” and quaint restaurants—“That’s the character we want.”

Assuming that the city council approves the downtown project to receive funding first if the proposition passes, proponents note the language of Proposition #1 and say the money can later be used for street needs citywide once the downtown project is paid off.

The additional half-cent would result in about $300,000 annually.

Engineers estimated the CSO fix for the Main Street sanitary sewer installation and replacement of the sidewalks at $1.355-million.

As a stand-alone project, the downtown street, parking, sidewalk, lighting, furnishing, landscaping and other improvements (on both the south and north sides) were estimated at $3.4 million.

It’s not known at this time how much the CSO fix might subtract off the $3.4 million cost, said City Administrator Erv Portis after the luncheon, but that is something engineers are working to determine.

Grant funding is also being pursued.

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