- Associated Press - Monday, March 31, 2014

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - A coalition of 27 neighborhoods groups has united to secure a $6 million share of any increase in Lincoln’s sales tax.

City leaders are considering adding a half-cent to the city’s current rate of 1½ cents per dollar on purchases inside the city, raising the total sales tax to 7½ cents. The yearly revenue increase has been estimated at $22 million.

The coalition wants $1 million for a fund to buy and fix or tear down problem properties, $2 million for sidewalk repairs and $3 million for parks.

“That $6 million is very fair,” Shawn Ryba, chief operating officer of NeighborWorks, told the Lincoln Journal Star (https://bit.ly/1jPRssh ). NeighborWorks is a nonprofit group that helps revitalize established Lincoln neighborhoods.

The Irvingdale neighborhood group president, Larry Evermann, said he could support the increase as long as the neighborhoods’ three priorities are included.

Members of Mayor Chris Beutler’s staff have talked to several groups, testing support for a sales tax increase and getting ideas for how to spend the revenue increase.

The ideas include property and occupation tax relief, road maintenance, new roads and fire stations, 911 communications equipment, economic development and community learning centers.

“This is very much in the discussion stage,” said Rick Hoppe, the mayor’s chief of staff.

State law requires that most of the money be earmarked for buildings, equipment, roads or tax relief. But 15 percent can be used for programs run jointly with another public entity.

“We think it is just as important to invest in your people as to invest in roads,” Ryba said.

The mayor’s staff isn’t sure whether he’ll advance the proposal for a council vote and, if approved by the council, a November ballot measure for city voters.

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Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, https://www.journalstar.com


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