They've got the vision in La Vista, but not the dollars.
So to get the ball rolling on a plan to revitalize the ailing 84th Street business district, city officials are proposing a 2.6-cent redevelopment property tax to generate funding needed for the project. On top of that, La Vista is looking at a voter referendum on a half-cent sales tax increase.
“84th Street is one of the council's top strategic priorities,” City Administrator Brenda Gunn said at a budget hearing last Wednesday. “We have aggressive plans, and funding is critical to start the project.”
Last week the La Vista City Council adopted a redevelopment plan for the depressed 84th Street area from Harrison Street to Giles Road. Once home to a vibrant shopping scene, the corridor and several shopping centers declined in recent years as popular anchor stores including Walmart relocated.
City officials say the area needs a public intervention, and they have drawn up plans to construct a new downtown park and accompanying commercial and residential developments that would create a walkable downtown for La Vista.
Though a recent survey showed residents wanting to see progress on 84th Street, officials stress that the project is nowhere near shovel-ready. There's no developer and no major funding source, and most of the properties slated for a makeover are privately owned.
But if La Vista ever wants to be in a position to move forward with the Vision 84 redevelopment plan, it must start socking away money to pay for it, Gunn told the council.
If approved by the council, the tax of 2.6 cents per $100 of valuation would be tacked on to property tax bills. It would translate to a tax increase of $37 per year for a resident with a home assessed at the median value of $143,700.
La Vista estimates that it would generate $325,000 in extra revenue next year, all of which could be spent only on the 84th Street redevelopment area.
The half-cent sales tax would raise the local sales tax from 1.5 to 2 cents, bringing in an additional $1.1 million each year. That, too, would be devoted solely to any 84th Street costs.
If the council agrees the sales tax increase should be put to voters, it could appear on the ballot for next May's primary election.
The proposed 2013-2014 budget earmarks an additional $100,000 for additional Vision 84 expenses. More than $280,000, a mix of city money and state grants, has been spent putting together plans and studies.
The council is expected to vote on a budget and the redevelopment property tax in September. There is no date for a vote on whether to put a sales tax before voters.
Several council members said it was high time that the city started exploring how to pay for its expensive redevelopment goals.
“We've got to start somewhere,” Councilman Anthony Gowan said. “I was at a forum recently, and the first three questions I received were 'What's going on with Walmart?' And, quite frankly, I'm tired of hearing about it.”
Councilman Kelly Sell agreed.
“I feel this does show we are committed to the 84th Street redevelopment,” he said. “It provides us with an arrow or quiver to support these moves.”
But Council President Mike Crawford questioned how much impact an extra $300,000 a year would have on a project estimated to cost more than $40 million.
“It's less than 1 percent a year of what we would need,” he said. “I think the city needs to make a commitment, but until we know where our other funding's going to come from, I think we're putting the cart before the horse.
“Until we've identified a major source of funding, to put another levy on the property tax doesn't make a lot of sense to me.”