Half-cent sales tax still up in the air

By: Bill Schammert

A half-cent sales tax could generate an estimated $22 million per year for the city of Lincoln. But, the Mayor’s Office says the idea is by no means a done deal.

The Nebraska Legislature gave cities the option of voting to raise the sales tax one-half percent for various community projects. Mayor Chris Beutler’s Chief of Staff, Rick Hoppe, says the mayor hasn’t made any decision just yet. 

“The mayor is committed to finding consensus before he’s willing to support anything that comes forward,” Hoppe said. 

Since the idea first came about, Hoppe says he’s attended dozens of meetings with various groups about the topic, acting as a resource and gauging the public’s interest. 

“You have to have a lot of people working together to make something like this happen,” he said. “If the community thinks it’s the best solution.”

A Lincoln neighborhoods’ group held a similar type meeting Tuesday night. They discussed a possible “1-2-3 Great Neighborhoods!” plan. On a per-year basis, it includes $1 million for problem properties, $2 million for sidewalks and $3 million for parks.

“I think it’s important to have a balanced approach,” Tracy Corr with the Lincoln Policy Network said. “So everyone gives a little bit to their favorite causes, and everybody gets something.”

Again, Hoppe says the mayor has made no definitive decision yet. If he decides to move forward with the proposal, he would need a super majority – five of seven votes – from the city council to put the measure on the November ballot.  

A timetable is still fuzzy, but Hoppe says if that was to happen, the idea would likely be presented in July.