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Gering voters to decide sales tax extension

July 24, 2018 GMT

GERING — On Nov. 6, Gering voters will decide whether to renew the city’s current one-half cent sales tax for economic development.

At Monday’s city council meeting, members voted unanimously to place the measure on the general election ballot.

The ballot item would ask voters whether they want to continue the existing sales and use tax, amend and extend the duration of the program, and consider the continued allocation of a portion of the city sales and use tax toward the city’s LB 840 economic development program.

If approved, the half-cent sales tax would be extended for an additional 10 years. It isn’t a part of and has no effect on the city’s 1 percent sales tax, which is used for property tax relief, downtown redevelopment and tourism.

The half-cent LB 840 tax generates about $300,000 per fiscal year for a wide variety of economic development, including projects in both retail and manufacturing sectors.

Mayor Tony Kaufman said those funds are vital for continued growth of the city.

“It’s a tax that people are aware of and I hope they see the value in that,” Kaufman said. “Because of the size of the city, Gering has a wide range of allowable uses for our economic benefit.”

He said both Gering and Scottsbluff work well together to recruit economic development opportunities for the entire community. The example he gave was the joint Gering-Scottsbluff Industrial Park on the east side of Gering.

The city has reached out to the Vitalix Industries plant in Alliance about possibly relocating to the industrial park. But Gering will have to work with the state to make it happen.

Vitalix is a manufacturer of natural feed supplements for livestock and other animals.

The plant, located at the Alliance airport, was destroyed in a fire last month. Rebuilding at that site is being opposed by state and federal aviation officials, so Vitalix will need to find a new location.

Kaufman said Gering works with regional partners, including the state, to promote the industrial park, so that location is on the state’s radar for potential development.

“It gets delicate and complicated with state funds when you have existing businesses within the state,” he said. “We have to work with the state very closely on what funds can be used for what projects.”

Retail has also benefited from Gering’s half-cent sales tax for economic development. Fresh Foods and the Cobblestone Hotel are two examples.

Now the sales tax renewal goes to the voters. Kaufman said the city plans to promote its importance in the community until then, but he’s confident it will be renewed.

“We have a great LB 840 oversight committee that has good business minds,” he said. “Its members do a diligent service as they pore over applications looking for opportunities to grow and enhance our community. We’ve had a great track record in the past and look forward to new opportunities.”