HARTINGTON — Hartington residents will get the chance to vote Nov. 3 on a new city sales tax proposal, the City Council decided at a special meeting Monday.
The proposal would extend and expand the current city sales tax, which voters first approved here in 2007.
Local voters overwhelmingly voted that year for a one percent city sales tax and local option municipal economic development plan to improve city infrastructure, and to provide funds to help retain and expand local business and help attract new business and industry to the community.
Since 2007, the city has collected over $2.74 million in sales tax funds. That money has been used to help revitalize the downtown area with new paving, sidewalks, and lighting, as well as sewer and water system improvements.
Funds were also used to help in the construction of the new Westfield Acres Housing Development and for the dam revitalization and water retention project.
In November, voters will be asked to extend that plan for another 15 years and to increase the sales tax from one percent to one-and-one-half percent. The plan calls for 60 percent of those sales tax funds to go into the city coffers, while 35 percent will go toward economic development efforts and five percent will go toward bond reduction.
Hartington Mayor Mark Becker said the funds are needed to update city infrastructure and equipment, noting that much of the city’s storm sewer system has not been updated since it was first installed, over 80 years ago.
“We have a lot of aging items that we just have not been keeping up with,” he said.
Becker said while no one likes taxes, the sales tax is an equitable way to bring funds into the city coffers.
“Sales tax is a way for us to collect taxes from people outside of our community, enabling us to defer some of those costs rather than raising property taxes on local residents,” Becker said.
Hartington Economic Development President Chris Miller said the city has gained the reputation over the years as being a very attractive and progressive community. Building a reputation like that doesn’t come without expense, he said.
Miller said at least once a year or so, he has prospective new residents or businesses comment on “how impressed they are with Hartington and how clean and attractive the community is.”
It’s the sales tax and strong city leadership that makes that happen, he said.
Mayor Becker said if Hartington wants to continue being the type of city that stands out above others its size, then it will need to continue to make improvements.
“If we want to continue to be one of the leading communities, we have to keep pace,” he said. “We can’t just sit back and watch as things wear out.”
Miller also noted that many local businesses have been able to make improvements because of the small business loans the city has been able to give out over the years. All this funding was made possible through the sales tax, he said.
“We are getting more and more requests for business loans each year,” he said.
Mayor Becker said the city has a “wish list” of things that need to be done.
“I think the projects we are working on are needs and not wants,” he said.
City Council President Brad Peitz said several projects have been pushed on the back burner over the years because of a lack of funding. Those projects will still need to be done some day, and the longer the city waits, the more expensive those projects become.
A few of the projects that need to be done soon include an update and revitalization of north Madison Street, which would rebuild the street and solve several long-standing drainage issues on it. Major updates are also needed on south Broadway between the old Jerry’s Service building and the campus.
Becker also noted that several pieces of city equipment are also getting quite old, and thus tougher to keep in good running order.
The current city shop is also in very bad shape and will need to be replaced down the road, he said. He also noted that all five of the city’s trucks are at least 15 years old, and one of them is over 30 years old. The city road grader is nearly 30 years old, and the city garbage truck is 16 years old, he said.
Former Hartington City Council President Tim Burbach addressed the current City Council Monday, asking for clarification on the proposal, and asking how those funds have been spent over the years.
Burbach said he understood a lot of that money has been used to improve city infrastructure, but it’s not easy for the people to see those improvements, he said.
“I know the public is kind of wondering what we did for infrastructure improvements,” he said, advising the Council they should do what ever they can to inform people of all the good things the tax has done for the community. “I am an advocate of the sales tax,” he said. “It is, in my
“I am an advocate of the sales tax,” he said. “It is, in my opinion, a very necessary tool. I’d hate to see what my property taxes would be like without it.”
Becker agreed. “I think we’ve got a good story to tell here,” he said. “I’m
“I think we’ve got a good story to tell here,” he said. “I’m not afraid to tell our story.”
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