Grand Island City Council Votes to Postpone Tax Talks

GRAND ISLAND, Neb. -- The Grand Island City Council voted 9-1 at its special meeting Tuesday night to postpone talks about the city's 1.5 percent food and beverage tax until after the first of October.

The city implemented the tax in 2008 to help pay for state fair expenses, but that tax expires in 2015. The city council discussed extending the tax at its meeting Tuesday, but several council members thought it was too soon.

Council member Gilbert said it's premature to worry about renewing the sales tax, especially when the council should be focusing on the 2015 budget. She said there needs to be more community discussion before council members make any decisions.

The council was originally discussing whether to vote on a suggested ballot question before the November elections. If council had approved a question, voters would have decided whether to permanently extend the food and beverage tax.

Several council members also spoke up at Tuesday's meeting and said the tax extension wouldn't even need to be on the November ballot and they still have time to make decisions before the current tax expires in December 2015.

The food and beverage tax generates around 1.5 million dollars a year for the city and has helped fund the Community Field House at Fonner Park and the relocation of softball and soccer fields.

Nearly a half a million dollars of the tax revenue will also match ten percent of the Nebraska Lottery's State Fair Contributions.

"In terms of the match, $425,000, that's how many police officers, how many fire trucks, how many parks and recreation workers, it's a general fund obligation, so indeed it's like any budget," Mayor Jay Vavricek said. "What do you want to give up, but also what do you want to fund? And that's what also is important, looking in the future."

City Council members won't discuss the matter further until after the budget is adopted following October 1.


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