This week, Mayor Keith Snyder introduced the topic, saying the city
could see some significant revenue from this tax. He noted it was
money that could be designated for a much-needed city safety
complex. The safety complex would include a new fire station and
also a city police department.
He added that the money could also be added to the city's general
Bruce Carmitchel was the first to speak on this, saying that if
the city were to do this, he feels they should go for a tax
percentage on the lower end of the range, and that it would be smart
to designate the funds to a specific program. He suggested that one
thing the city could do is use the money to pay the unfunded
liability in its pension accounts.
Melody Anderson said she was in favor of some percentage of tax,
and she agreed with Carmitchel that it should not go to the general
fund, but rather be designated to fund something specific. She
disagreed that it should go to pensions. She told the council there
are many things that are being neglected in the city due to budget
She also suggested adopting the tax with a sunset clause:
starting the tax at a higher percentage, then lowering it when a
designated project was fully funded.
Tom O'Donohue also commented that he was in favor of the tax for
a designated purpose. He was not in favor of adding it to the
general fund balance. He said the city needed its own safety
complex, and he supported that suggestion. He later said that in
regard to a sunset clause, he figured by the time the sunset
arrived, it would be a new council, and he doubted they would honor
the sunset. He then added that if the council would put that in, at
least the public would know that was the original intention.
Tracy Jackson, street superintendent, talked about being in
Jacksonville recently, where the public works director preferred to
do certain projects with his "1 percent." Jackson said that city has
a 2.5 percent utility tax, and 1 percent was designated for
separating the sewers when they did city streets.
To explain more, Lincoln is primarily using a combined sewer
system, where stormwater runoff and household sewage travel through
the same lines. This is really not a desirable situation as far as
the Environmental Protection Agency is concerned. If the city could
fund running separate sewer lines, it would be beneficial. Marty
Neitzel, who is currently the head of the sewer department, said she
thought that was not a bad idea.
[to top of second column]
Snyder told the council that, doing the math, a 1 percent tax
would generate $168,000. McLaughlin said if the council wants to
pursue this, she can get even better information from the utilities.
David Wilmert commented: "A tax once implemented rarely goes
away. We just went to a lot of effort to lower utility bills through
aggregation, and now we're going to turn around and tax them on the
same bill. I'm sorry, I just can't support that."
Snyder said he thought there was great value in supporting this
as far as giving the city an opportunity for a new safety complex.
He also mentioned that the downtown revitalization committee has a
component in their plans for bringing fiber optic to the downtown
area. This money could also be used for that.
Chuck Conzo, city treasurer, also commented that he knows there
are changes coming nationwide. The federal government is revising
energy policies, and that is going to have a monetary impact on
consumers across the country.
Snyder commented that there wasn't anything the city could do
about (federal) government policy.
Conzo said what he was getting at was that the city would be
adding another fee on top of an already increased burden.
O'Donohue said the government changes were taking place inside
the current administration, and there was no guarantee the next
administration would pursue it. He added that the city shouldn't
limit itself because of this.
The next segment of this three-part series will cover council
discussions on cutting expenditures in the new fiscal year.
[By NILA SMITH]