Friday, September 21, 2018
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Residents to vote on plan for using tax dollars

*The headline that ran with this story in the Nov. 29 issue of The Times was inaccurate - the city is NOT seeking an additional tax, but simply seeking approval on a plan to use the existing tax funds. We sincerely apologize for this error and any confusion it may have caused.

Voters in Gothenburg will have the opportunity in February to put the city on a level playing field with other Nebraska communities. That is when the question of approving the economic development program plan under what has come to be known as LB840 will be submitted to a vote by local voters at a special election.

“In light of Parker Hannifin’s recent decision to close the Baldwin plant, now is the time to ensure we have the proper tools to attract business investment in our community,” said Gothenburg Mayor Joyce Hudson.

In 1991, Gothenburg voters approved a one-half percent city sales tax to support economic development and economic redevelopment. Those funds have gone to support projects such as Frito Lay, Orscheln Farm and Home, and the improvement of the rail-served industrial tract south of Highway 30. But because of changes to the law since the measure was initially passed, Gothenburg is behind other communities when it comes to how the economic development funds can be spent.

“In addition to our existing uses, communities across Nebraska can use these funds for workforce housing, workforce training programs, or even signing bonuses to attract employees,” said Nate Wyatt, Vice President of the Gothenburg Improvement Company (GIC) Board of Directors. “By approving the LB840 plan, we will be able to put our economic development sales tax funds to a wider variety of uses.”

The ability of other cities to use these sales tax funds for such purposes hits closer to home than some may think. “Cozad voters just approved an LB840 plan with 542 votes in favor and 173 against,” Hudson said. “We need to continue to not only be competitive with our neighbors, but also to have the ability to collaborate on projects that will be of benefit to the entire county.”

It is important to note, however, that this is not a tax increase. According to Colten Venteicher, an associate attorney with Bacon & Vinton, “Gothenburg voters have already benefited greatly by voting to approve this tax 27 years ago. What we are asking now is for approval of the LB840 plan so we can better use these funds for the long-term success of our community.”

Informational meetings to address questions and solicit ideas for what should be included in the plan will be held in the coming weeks. Those meetings will take place at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 4, at City Hall and at the noon Rotary meeting on Monday, Dec. 11, at the Senior Center. The City Council will also hold a public hearing to receive public comments on the plan and consider submitting the question of approval to a vote. That meeting will be at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 19, at City Hall.