Restaurant tax put on hold

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Posted: Friday, September 13, 2013 12:00 am

Councilman Don Preister withdrew his proposed 2.5 percent restaurant tax Monday night but said he was not giving up on the idea.

He said Bellevue residents proved generally hostile to the proposal during a budget hearing held Sept. 3 and so he was willing to withdraw the proposal.

“We had a pretty overwhelming group that said they did not like that,” he said. “I have since had other people say they would prefer it to property tax.”

Given the lack of agreement, Preister said he would withdraw the proposal but would not abandon the idea completely.

“Tonight I’m going to recommend that we just skip over the restaurant tax,” he said. “I’m not ruling it out for the future, but at this point I think we can dispense with it.”

The tax was expected to raise about $1 million in revenue in an effort to cut an anticipated $5 million deficit for the 2013-2014 fiscal year.

It was modeled after a similar tax imposed in the City of Omaha, which raised $23.8 million its first year, far exceeding the anticipated $15 million.

Council members instead balanced the budget through a combination of higher property taxes, and delaying or eliminating projects.

In other business the City Council:

• Delayed until its Oct. 28 session decisions on four requests for waivers to the city ordinance requiring residents to install sidewalks in front of their homes.

The sidewalk requirement has become a growing issue for council members as residents seek similar exemptions to those granted previously to other residents.

• Voted 5-0 to pay $31,000 for a wage and benefits comparability study.

The expense was criticized by some audience members as unnecessary, or something that should be conducted in-house, but City Administrator Dan Berlowitz disagreed.

He said a professionally conducted, multi-state study comparing Bellevue’s wage and benefits packages with cities of similar size would serve the city well in times of dispute.

Cities in Iowa, Oklahoma and Wisconsin will be used as comparables, he said, and results will carry weight if the city has to make a case before the Nebraska Commission on Industrial Relations.

• Heard a proposal to build a storage facility and office building near 25th Street and Chandler Road.

A vote will be taken at the council’s Sept. 23 session.

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