North Platte voters will decide in November whether the city’s Quality Growth Fund, which reserves some city sales tax proceeds to aid business and economic projects, will continue for a third 10-year period.
The City Council Tuesday voted 8-0 to place QGF renewal on the Nov. 3 general-election ballot, along with its plan for how the fund would be used through 2031.
If voters agree, neither QGF’s mechanism, its maximum share of sales-tax proceeds nor the 1½-cent city sales tax rate itself would change from the last time voters approved it in 2011.
Before putting QGF renewal on the ballot, council members also unanimously granted a $350,000 line of credit from the fund to Nebraskaland Days as a backstop against economic fallout from COVID-19.
The annual celebration, postponed from June to August by the pandemic, had to cancel its annual concert series for 2020. Executive Director David Fudge has said he’d tap the line of credit only if the organization falls short of funds to pay bills next year.
Councilman Andrew Lee offered the only public comment, noting the hundreds of thousands of dollars Nebraskaland Days brings into North Platte in normal years.
“I’m really glad we’re able to help you guys out,” Lee said. “We’re stuck in the worst of all positions (with COVID-19), and you guys have served us really, really well.”
The QGF ballot proposal would continue North Platte’s unique approach to using the state’s 30-year-old Legislative Bill 840. It enables cities to set funds aside for economic development with voter approval.
First approved in February 2001, QGF sets a series of annual “trigger point” figures on how much North Platte must collect in sales taxes before putting any new money into the fund.
Until and unless each year’s “trigger point” is reached — this fiscal year’s figure is about $7.14 million — 100% of city sales tax collections go into the city’s general fund.
City officials set their budget to count only on sales taxes equaling the trigger point. Voters again would set that target to grow 2% a year, as it has the past 20 years.
If collections pass the year’s trigger point, the general fund and QGF equally split additional sales-tax income until either QGF has collected $650,000 in new money or the fiscal year ends Sept. 30.
If QGF gets its $650,000 before Sept. 30 arrives, the general fund again gets all additional sales-tax proceeds until that date.
The fund has received some new money every year since 2003 but reached its $650,000-a-year cap only from 2014 to 2017, said Gary Person, president and CEO of the North Platte Area Chamber & Development Corp.
Out of the 72 cities with LB 840 programs, only North Platte sets aside money if and when sales-tax collections grow enough, he said.
The other 71 commit a set amount of funds every year, with Norfolk alone setting aside money from property taxes.
“North Platte is unique,” said Person, who administers QGF for the city and works with the fund’s five-member Citizens Review Committee. “Obviously it’s something the public has bought into.”
He and the review committee chose to leave the current program unchanged, rather than ask voters to set aside more money in uncertain economic times, he said.
Person showed a PowerPoint presentation detailing the fund’s performance, how it works and the wide variety of projects the fund has supported since its 2001 birth.
A total of 449 local businesses have benefited directly or indirectly from some $6 million QGF has committed over that time, he told the council.
Just over half — 226 — have gotten help since March due to COVID-19, Person said. The council approved QGF matching funds for a “Business Boost” retail gift-card program and set aside funds to help small businesses seek long-term emergency federal loans.
Among other QGF uses, Person added, 82 businesses benefited by working on or supplying construction of new homes under the chamber’s QGF-aided Shot in the Arm programs.
Two dozen have located in city industrial parks developed or expanded with the fund’s help, he said. QGF already has been used to launch work on a proposed “rail park” near Hershey.
The chamber has committed to present its PowerPoint program to community groups and actively campaign for QGF’s renewal, Person told the council.
“We’ve got something we can show them and explain to them” how the program has helped North Platte, he said.
In other business Tuesday, the City Council:
» Appointed Reneé White, executive assistant in the Mayor’s Office, as deputy city clerk after a brief executive session.
City Administrator Matthew Kibbon said White was named to the long-unfilled position due to the absence of City Clerk Angela Gilbert on medical leave.
White, a veteran city employee, works jointly for Mayor Dwight Livingston and Kibbon in her current role.
» Approved two measures and advanced a third intended to enable a home east of Nebraska Game and Parks Commission district headquarters to be split off into a separate lot.
North Platte real estate agent Sheri Bourne, who owns the home at 4114 Victoria Lane and its current 42.72-acre lot, wants to separate the home and a 200-foot-square parcel around it to enable future sale of the home.
The council amended the city’s comprehensive plan to change the larger lot’s use from “quasi-public” to “business transitional” and approved a subdivision plan detailing the lot split.
Council members gave first-round approval to the third measure, an ordinance to rezone the newly created residential lot from A-1 “transitional agricultural” to R-3 residential. The rest of the original lot will remain A-1.
» Approved an unrelated lot split separating two homes on a single lot at 614 N. Madison Ave. and 1503 W. Sixth St. into separate lots.
» Set the assessment schedule for property owners along recently finished stretches of East Eugene Avenue and Sitting Bull Road near Iron Horse Park.
» Received a plaque from the Nebraska Department of Economic Development noting renewal of the city’s status as an Economic Development Certified Community.