Feb 07, 2020 4:12 PM

Alliance council vote down 1/2¢ sales tax consideration

Posted Feb 07, 2020 4:12 PM

By KALIN KROHE, Panhandle Post

The Alliance City Council voted down a resolution this week during a regular meeting that could have raised taxes in the city by 1/2¢. 

The 1/2¢ sales tax that the council was considering was based on Legislative Bill 457 (LB357) that allows cities to implement an additional tax for public infrastructure projects. 

All council members said they favored the 1/2¢ sales tax, but the vote broke down over discussions on how to allocate that money. 

"There was a division among council about how much flexibility the city would have in spending that," said Alliance City Manger, Jeff Sprock. "Some wanted it only for streets...some wanted it for streets, but having flexibility to use that money on emergencies. Say an HVAC system at a library goes down, have a major sewer break or an electric sub-station goes out...having flexibility to use that money on a big infrastructure...a big capital project that was not foreseen."

Councilman Earl Jones was for placing an additional 1/2¢ sales tax on the ballot for May if it was used only for street projects and not infrastructure means in the future. 

"I still disagree...it just eats up this money and it'll be gone...and our streets will be just like they are," said Jones. "The street guys are saying if we want our streets to stay in top condition, it's not a one shot deal. We're already three years into the last mill and overlays...so we're two years away from when we should chip seal it if we want our streets to stay in good condition."

Jones said the Third Street project is nice, but it's not necessary. He stated that streets are necessary. "We can always find something thats better, but streets are a reality."

"We don't take care of these streets, it's just going to get more expensive," Jones added. "This is the danger...we're already finding things that we can do with that money." 

Mayor Mike Dafney weighed his opinion on this issue as well. 

"I'm not going to vote for this to tie my hands if an emergency comes up...or tie the hands of future councils," said Dafney.

Councilwoman Ryan Reynolds stated he gave this resolution a lot of thought. 

"I respect everyone on this council...I've weighed everybody's thoughts and inputs very heavily," said Reynolds. "I just don't feel comfortable with it."

Councilman Brian Mischnick said this is a special tax for a special purpose. Mischnick thinks the city should know where all the money is going. 

"We should be prepared for disasters with insurance and our current reserves," said Councilman Mischnick. "That's where I'm at with it."

The votes for the 1/2¢ sales tax increase went as follows:

-Ryan Reynods, NO

-Earl Jones, NO

-Brian Mischnick, YES

-Mayor Mike Dafney, NO

-Annora Bentley, NO

In other business, council:

-Denied the Alliance Housing Authority the waiver of their payment in lieu of tax requirement. That amount was $9,849.38. 

-Approved a donation acceptance from the Alliance Public Library Foundation. Library staff will be utilizing the old computer lab space within the library as a designated meeting area. 

-Approved the purchase of a wire reel trailer for the electric department. This trailer will be bought from Brooks Brothers Trailers for $50,307.12. 

-Approved the purchase of a Jacobsen Greens King IV greens mower from TurfWerks of Omaha for $25,350. 

-First Quarter Financial Statement from finance director Randy Waggener.