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Area residents get a chance to talk taxes

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HARTINGTON — About two dozen people came out Monday night for a Town Hall meeting at the City Auditorium designed to explain a proposed city sales tax increase.

City residents first passed the LB840 legislation providing for a portion of city sales tax to be used for economic development in 2007.

The authority to levy such a tax expires after 15 years, so the Hartington City Council voted this summer to put the issue on the Nov. 3 ballot to get the consent of the people to reauthorize the sales tax and increase it by one-half percent.

It is estimated this one-half cent increase will raise $112,500 per year in taxes, said Hartington Economic Development Coordinator Miranda Becker.

Becker said local citizens will see two items on their ballots. Both items will need to be approved in order for the sales tax proposal to pass.

While these funds will be able to help the city do a great many things, it shouldn’t be a burden on local taxpayers, she said.

“If you spend $100 on taxable items, that means you will pay an extra 50 cents in taxes. If you spend an average of $10,000 on taxable items here a year, that means you will pay an additional $50,” Becker said.

Hartington was one of the first communities of its size to put such a plan in place.

When the sales tax was first approved, the goal was to improve city infrastructure, provide funds for matching grants, and to have funds available to maintain local businesses and help them expand and to attract new businesses.

Those goals have made Hartington a better place, Mayor Mark Becker told audience members.

“As I look at our community 15 years ago, compared to other communities, I think it’s obvious to see this program has helped take our community to a higher level compared to some other communities that haven’t done something like this,” Mayor Becker said “Being progressive, and investing back in our community has made a huge difference. In the last 15 years, we’ve kind of seperated ourselves as being a real strong community on the grow as opposed to standing still or decaying.”

The city sales tax has been a real asset to this community, said Hartington Economic Development President Chris Miller.

The tax has helped the community to make improvements that have helped to make Hartington really stand out, Miller said.

“By passing this the first time, I think it made a lot of difference in our community,” Miller said. “You can see it just driving up and down the streets.

Miller, who works as a realtor, said he is constantly amazed at how many people from out of town come into his office and remark about how nice the community is.

“(People can see) the pride, the benefits that we have here, the amenities that we have up and down Main Street and all over town, the list just goes on and on,” he said.

The downtown revitalization project, the Westfield Acres housing subdivision, improvements to the Hartington Community Complex, and to Felber Park and the swimming pool may not have happened without this sales tax, Mayor Becker said.

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