Half cent tax increase to go on the primary ballot and Froeschl gives update on transmission line proposal

By Nikki McKim

During the first City Council meeting of the new year, Falls City Council members approved a resolution to introduce a half-cent sales tax on the ballot of the primary election of May 2022. The half-cent sales tax is used for infrastructure of capital improvements. 

The increase of the local sales and use tax rate of an additional one-half of one percent from one and one-half percent to two percent. 

Pursuant to the authority provided by Stat. §77-27,142, revenue from a sales and use tax rate in excess of one and one-half percent shall be used for public infrastructure projects. It’s proposed that revenue from such increased tax, if approved, will be devoted to the utility infrastructure upgrades for water, sewer, gas and electric systems serving the City of Falls City and for the development of 33rd street. 

Councilmember Derrick Leyden added that it wouldn’t just be the city paying the sales tax for infrastructure upgrades. It will be anyone who comes to town and shops or passes through using our gas stations.

He said when the Council brought this forward with the $31 million worth of infrastructure upgrades, the sales tax, the Council didn’t want to raise people’s taxes, but there isn’t much of an option to help pay for it. 

“This is going to help partially pay for the infrastructure improvements; I think it’s fitting that we’re putting it in the citizen’s hands, whether or not to implement the sales tax. But you know, by what revenue we can generate from this, it will potentially offset what the utility rates are going to have to potentially be increased by in order to pay for this,” said Leyden. “We have to rely on sales tax or tax revenues from our citizens. So, I think this is really needed. If anything, this is going to hopefully reduce the burden on our citizens. I look forward to what the citizens have to say.” 

Lucas Froeschl gave an EDGE quarterly update. 

Preliminary financing for the 33rd street project has been approved; acreage has been sold, legal documents are being prepared and bidding for a Master Plan is underway. Froeschl submitted a proposal for Project Green requesting 320 acres at a greenfield site, access to 30 million bushels of corn to create 70 FTE’s and $900m investment. Project Green prefers rail options and the ability to build their own wind turbines for access to power, but they require 50 megawatts of electricity and Falls City only has two megawatts available. 

Froeschl’s discussed housing projects with four to five potential developers that leverage federal and state funding for affordable housing projects. He would like to make 15-20 buildable sites available to proceed with negotiations for workforce housing. 

The natural gas utility infrastructure has been installed at Champions Crossing and once landowners break ground, the power utility infrastructure will be initiated. The area is ready for housing development. 

State ARPA: EDGE has worked with Senator Julie Slama, OPPD and Board of Public Works to draft a bill requesting funds for an additional transmission line to Falls City. Froeschl said he’s coordinated with the Nebraska Department of Economic Development, Nebraska Municipal Power Pool and is seeking formal support from Union Pacific Railroad. 

Senator Slama drafted a bill on behalf of all second-class cities for a power transmission line. Froeschl said it’s Falls Cities’ greatest need for economic development. The bill was going to be introduced last week and he would have a couple of weeks to put together some information before debates begin on the proposals for ARPA funds. 

He is currently working on getting lobbying representation, so Falls City can get information out. ARPA funds should be used for water, sewer and broadband infrastructure, but OPPD has identified that there may be some flexibility for an electrical transmission line. Froeschl has requested that the Board of Public Works team up with EDGE 50/50 to approve the cost of a lobbyist. 

Rob Gerweck was named a new member of the Board of Adjustments. 

Mitch Merz was elected President of the City Council and Appointed to Economic Development Growth Enterprise, Inc. Board of Directors. 

Derrick Leyden was elected Acting President of the City Council. 

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