SIDNEY — The accomplishments achieved with street projects through the current income tax levy were highlighted during Monday’s Sidney City Council meeting. The current 0.25 percent levy, which has been on the books for five years, is set to expire on Dec. 31, 2019
Gary Clough, assistant city manager/public works director, reminded council the levy, only used for streets, alleys, curbs and gutter construction, was approved in November 2014.
Council is asking voters to approve a new 0.3 percent income tax levy, which will appear on the May ballot. The funds raised will be divided between road repairs (0.15 percent) and the fire department (0.15 percent)
“The new fund that is proposed for the tax levy in May is for a 0.15 percent income tax for road repairs that would start collection in 2020 when the current tax levy expires. It will again have the same restrictions as the first one did” on how revenue can be spent, Clough said.
A 0.15 percent street levy would generate about $1.74 million per year, in addition the the $60,000 budgeted from the general capital fund. The total revenue is estimated at $2.34 million per year.
The 13-year span represented within Clough’s report depicted several charts that showed 2014 as the lowest year Sidney spent money on road repairs between years 2010 through 2023. In 2014, the city spent $192,420 resurfacing 0.78 of a mile. The greatest amount the city is anticipated spend across those 13 years was to resurface 13.87 miles is $3,743,800 in 2018.
Prior to the levy funds becoming available for repairs, 47.61 miles of roads had not been paved since 2010, and was estimated to cost $12 million, Clough’s report showed. The city projects to have $5.5 million available to complete about 22 miles of road left. He said the deficit after 2022 is $6.5 million and about 25.6 miles of roads.
Clough said using a 12 year average life span for a newly resurfaced road, Sidney will need $2.5 million per year to keep the 111 miles of roads above the the city’s pavement condition rating (PCR) goal of 70.
In other business, Bon Air Circle resident John Adams spoke during the public comments portion of the meeting to ask for clarity about Fire Station No. 3 and the proposed income tax levy on the upcoming May ballot.
“Good, smooth roads; it is why the residents of Sidney consistently vote for this dedicated levy,” he told council, in part. “However, this new levy in May will actually short change what everyone wants by decreasing funding for road improvements.”
Adams said under the new levy’s wording, “roads and repairs will have a 40 percent cut to its current funding level, going from 0.25 to 0.15.” The “numbers” of the proposed 0.3 percent tax levy will be, he said, a “20 percent tax increase, but a 40 percent cut to roads.”
He then presented a handout to council containing the following eight questions on the topics he hopes will be answered at the next City Council meeting, or in the near future:
• What is the proposed length of this levy?
• What is the current dollar amount to construct Station No. 3?
• With seven new hires at the fire department, what is the cost to operate over the next eight years?
• Where can I get an updated copy of the Community Risk Assessment?
• This levy can be used for the “future tactical village and public safety training center.” Is that correct?
• A mileage check from Station No. 1 to the cul-de-sac of Summer Field Trail (northern most housing development) revealed a one mile difference, with Station No. 3 being shorter. Response times will vary due to several variables.
• Does this levy create a permanent tax? (page six of the 2019-2023 Five Year Financial Plan)
• The city of Sidney purchased in 2017 12.5 acres of land. Is this the same land or different from the “purchase of additional 15 acres for a fire educational complex?” (page 101 of Capitol Improvement Plan 2019-2023)
The city clerk took the questions to distribute to council members for review.
Council member Joe Ratermann shared a concern he heard that 0.15 would be too little of funds needed for road repairs. Clough responded saying they believe the 0.15 is pretty close to where they project they need to be.
During city staff member comments, Fire Chief Brad Jones invited the public to the department’s open house on Friday, March 1, for Deputy Fire Chief Cameron Haller who is retiring from the fire department on March 2. The open house will be from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., with a flag ceremony at 4 p.m. on Friday at Sidney Fire’s Station 1, 222 W. Poplar St.
Jones said Haller’s career has been dedicated to public service, starting with his years in the Navy, and then his last 23 years with the city of Sidney. He told council there will be “big shoes to fill” at the fire department.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4823.