Kindig eyes grass roots campaign to support half-cent sales tax hike

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Posted: Saturday, April 5, 2014 12:00 am

La Vista residents shouldn’t be surprised if they find their mayor knocking at their door over the next several weeks, not to mention the city’s eight City Council members, all of whom have promised Mayor Doug Kindig they will knock on at least 100 doors.

They will join a phalanx of volunteers who have promised to invest time and shoe leather in an effort to persuade La Vista voters to approve a half-cent increase in the city’s sales tax on the May 13 primary ballot.

The city’s sales tax currently sits at 1½ cents, and would rise to 2 cents if a majority of voters approve the increase. The state sales tax is 5 percent, which means persons purchasing goods and services in La Vista currently pay a total of 7 percent in combined sales tax, rising to 7½ cents if the proposal passes.

Kindig said passage is critical to the future of that area of 84th Street where the Walmart and Hobby Lobby stores used to sit before they relocated to Papillion.

It is a largely empty stretch of 84th Street, though not entirely so since a small number of restaurants and other businesses remain, including a branch of First National Bank. But it is no longer “the Golden Mile” it was before the development vortex that is Papillion sucked major businesses to the southeast and outside the reach of La Vista’s taxing authority.

The additional half cent is expected to generate about $1.1 million a year for the city, money that would be used to take the first steps in implementing La Vista’s Vision 84 plan, an ambitious vision that proposes a major regional park surrounded by residences, offices and retail stores.

Kindig takes the long view on that plan, estimating it could take up to 30 years to complete. But, just as every journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, so Kindig believes this multi-million dollar journey begins with half a cent.

“We think this is the catalyst that is needed to get 84th Street started again in the right direction,” he said.

But only a catalyst.

Kindig said Vision 84 will come to fruition, and will be there for future generations to enjoy, only if private developers see the potential and put private money to work. The sales tax increase, he said, would give the city the ability to redevelop the plaza and make it more attractive to private investors.

A revitalized business plaza would then generate the tax revenues necessary to pursue creation of the regional park, in several stages, probably over the next two decades.

But it begins with the commercial plaza, in which developers, during the 10 years since it became clear that La Vista would lose businesses to Papillion, have shown little interest.

But Kindig said 84th Street between Giles Road and Harrison Street will not be stagnant forever. The question La Vista residents must answer May 13, he said, is whether they want revitalization to occur sooner or later.

“If the sales tax does not pass I think it will dramatically delay the redevelopment of 84th Street,” he said. “We’ll continue to work hard to try to find somebody, but without this revenue source it’s going to be very difficult for the city to be at the table if anybody does want to come to us.”

So the mayor and his army will be knocking on doors between now and primary day.

An informational town hall meeting will be held April 22 at 7 p.m. at La Vista City Hall.

A glossy brochure explaining how the half cent would be used has been produced and will be delivered to every resident of La Vista, as has the spring edition of the city’s newsletter with similar details.

Kindig said the issue boils down to city leaders asking the voters for their trust.

He said that trust has been earned based on the booming business scene in the western portion of La Vista, where the city invested significant funds.

“Every citizen in La Vista is going to have an opportunity to see this information multiple times,” he said. “I think La Vista has proven that the investments we have made have been very good and we’re starting to see positive returns from that, so when I say I ask the taxpayers of La Vista to trust us, I say so because we have a record that says we can be trusted.”

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