The LIBA Board of Directors has reluctantly decided to support the proposed sales tax increase to finance necessary public safety projects.
LIBA’s support of this proposal was not an easy decision. This sales tax compounds the effects of the arena occupation taxes and increases the burden on brick and mortar retailers struggling to compete with internet businesses that do not collect sales taxes. However, the sales tax was the best of the “bad options” put forward to fund the 911 center.
LIBA’s leading reservation was not even the tax itself but the situation which necessitates it. The City has known for years that the 911 communications center would need to be replaced, yet nothing was done to budget this expense. A lack of fiscal planning created the urgency behind this need.
However, the past cannot be undone and utilizing a sales tax to finance these public safety projects has several advantages over previous proposals. It does not increase already burdensome property taxes and generates revenues from a broad base of taxpayers including visitors to Lincoln who may utilize Lincoln’s emergency services. Further, the ballot language specifies a concrete three year sunset and the pay-as-you go approach of the sales tax will save over $10 million in bond interest costs.
Finally, the city has accepted LIBA’s suggestion that it take steps to address future emergency system needs by creating a segregated fund. This account, funded with money paid by 911 partners like the sheriff’s department and UNL, will be exclusively dedicated to pay for hardware and software upgrades of the emergency communications system.
When faced with the current situation, we believe this proposal is the best option available to finance a critical need.