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LB 357 sales tax funds enhance school and city infrastructure

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LB 357 sales tax funds enhance school and city infrastructure

YORK — In November of 2014, residents of York approved a ½ cent sales tax for community infrastructure and recreation. Prior to the election, the City of York and the York Public School District entered an interlocal agreement to form the York Community Infrastructure and Recreation Committee, commonly referred to as the LB 357 committee. Key projects discussed at that time included Levitt Stadium improvements, a ballpark complex, a quiet zone and track resurfacing. The sales tax revenue was designated to provide funds to pay off bonds for large infrastructure and recreation projects to enhance the community and to invest in additional infrastructure and recreation projects as revenues permit.

Now, eight years later, the LB 357 sales tax revenue continues to pay off bond investments and to provide revenues for other school and city infrastructure and recreation projects. Bonds tied to LB 357 projects were refinanced last year at a very low interest rate. These savings, combined with healthy sales tax revenues enabled some one-time investments in projects consistent with the LB 357 purpose of improving recreation and infrastructure in the city and schools last year. In the 2021-2022 budget year LB 357 investments included a new playground surface for the playground at the ballfield complex, a tot playground and splash pad, an accessible restroom for Mincks Park near the new Peyton Parker Lane Playground, a much-needed new HVAC system for the library and improvements at the family aquatic center as well as a major lighting project in the York Public Middle School.

The LB 357 budget approved for 2022-2023 includes further improvements around the Peyton Parker Lane Playground, surfacing for York Public Elementary School playgrounds, HVAC units for the Senior Center, school crossing safety improvements and funds for a local match on the upcoming major federal investment in trails and pedestrian safety in York.

The LB 357 committee meets quarterly. Prior to the September meeting of the committee, members asked for information on the implications of paying off bonds early. At the September meeting members learned that the city would face penalties and a higher interest rate if the bonds were called early. Also, the treasurer reported that the current interest rate on cash exceeds the interest rates on the bonds. Members concluded that it did not make financial sense to pay the bonds early, especially at this time.

The sales tax revenue reduces pressure on property taxes to fund infrastructure and recreation needs for the city and the schools.

Dr. Mitch Bartholomew, York Public Schools Superintendent, noted that “The LB357 Committee has made several great decisions utilizing these funds. Over the past few years, YPS has resurfaced our track and tennis courts, replaced theater curtains and upgraded lighting.

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Dr. Sue Crawford, city administrator, said, “So many cities and school districts struggle to maintain infrastructure and cannot provide the opportunities that I see the city and school here in York can provide.”

Each year representatives from the York City Council and the York Public School Board, who comprise the York Community Infrastructure and Recreation Committee, meet prior to the budget decisions for the city and school district to track the sales tax revenues, ensure that bonds are paid, and identify improvement projects.

Barb Skaden, member of the York Public School board, explained, “It’s purpose is oversight and to provide for the recreational and infrastructure needs of both the city and the school.” She noted that the LB357 process “has been amazing for both parties and we look forward to more planning and projects in the future.”

Fellow YPS board member Amie Kopcho added, “It’s very exciting to work to meet these goals for both the city and YPS. As you can see, this tax has benefited York in numerous ways so far, and we look forward to a continued collaboration and celebrating paying off the bonds.”

Councilman Tony North, one of four city representatives on the oversight committee, noted, “LB357 is a great example of how partnerships can benefit the citizens of York. The interlocal agreement that the City of York and the York Public Schools has entered into, has been such a benefit to the schools, the students and the citizens of York. We hope to continue these partnerships to ease tax burdens and promote a good, strong quality of life in the City of York.” Councilwoman Sheila Hubbard, who also serves on the committee, recalls walking door to door in the spring of 2014 in York neighborhoods to educate voters about the positive possibilities that LB 357 would provide. She said when she was helping students at the school, their conversations were interrupted every 20 minutes by train horns. Now that the quiet zone is completed, that interruption at the school, and other places in York, no longer breaks up the day repeatedly.

Hubbard says the door-to-door work was well worth it. “It is rewarding to see the quiet zone accomplished and a beautiful ballfield complex completed that brings many families to York.”

Her experience on the committee, she says, has helped her see collaboration at its best.

The York Community Infrastructure and Recreation Committee includes four city council members and two school board members as voting members. The superintendent of schools and the city administrator join the meetings as non-voting members. The committee meets quarterly. The meetings are open to the public. Meeting times are published in the York News-Times and on the community calendar and on the City website.

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