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Sidney budget includes smaller property tax, bigger projects


The city of Sidney plans a slight decrease in property taxes for next year, while also looking forward to some big improvements.

At Tuesday's meeting, the city council filed the 2013-2014 budget with the city clerk and set the tax levies to prepare for the September 10 public budget hearing.

"There'll be a slight property tax reduction in the levy," said city manager Gary Person. "Even considering that we had to be fairly aggressive this year in trying to plan for a lot of new projects, and a lot of new development in the community. I think everyone's pretty pleased with how the budget process went. We're finishing the year financially healthy."

The city has had to pay out some unusually high sales tax refunds in the past, so it was prepared for that eventuality once again. When the anticipated expenditure didn't happen, the city ended up in a better financial situation.

"This year it was more of a normal year," Person said. "So we planned for worst case scenario, then we had a normal year on that it helped us finish strong."

The area's economy has also been doing well, Person added. Which helped generate more revenue from sales taxes. The city is planning quite a few major projects in the next year's budget.

"One of the big ticket items, and it's very critical to the East Sidney development is the expansion of Toledo Street and reconstruction of Greenwood Road," Person said. "That will open up a whole new wave of multimillion dollars worth of development."

The street department's proposed budget for next year is $8.7 million, with the Toledo extension at a price tag of $6 million alone. This additional road will make the new housing possible, which has been a problem for anyone moving into the city in the past few years, Person said. All of the new infrastructure and projects makes Sidney a more enticing place for new businesses to call home, he added.

"It sends such a positive, positive message to investors looking from the outside, potential housing developers, those that are looking at being a partner in that new east Sidney development, it's welcome news," Person said.

The city has partnered with South Platte Natural Resource District to mitigate storm water issues. Taking care of this problem is critical for the Cabela's housing development, the new Sidney Regional Medical Center and the grade school, if approved. The budget for next year's waste water and sewer department is $1.3 million, which is an increase of $10,000 from this year in the sewer projects area.

Funds generated from the new half cent sales tax will go to various areas of the budget. Some of the revenue from this will go toward roads projects. For next year the city plans an overlay of Fort Sidney Road and will also do work on 10th Ave. The curb, gutter and sidewalk will be replaced on six streets on the north side of town. New sales taxes will also help fund the storm water management project, the golf course irrigation project, the parks department and the swimming pool.

These repairs to the golf course are badly needed, Person said. The golf department's budget for next year is $2 million while $1.5 million of this will go toward the new irrigation system.

City discussed the new pool in budget workshops earlier this month and they plan to finalize a location soon, and will most likely plan for an outdoor pool

"It would be nice to have an indoor pool, but the overall cost of the project and the long term additional financial subsidy that must go into annual operation, we just don't know if the community can support it," Person said.

The city plans to be more proactive in the next year about getting rid of eyesores in the community.

"We're gonna get more aggressive at going after abandoned, dilapidated properties," Person said. "We've been pretty aggressive going after people that are in zoning violations and other things, but we're gonna even step it up another notch."

Those enforcing city code try to be understanding that some just don't have the money to comply with city code. The city will try to work with these people, Person said.

The electric department is going to start plans for a new substation, to accommodate population growth and to make sure there's a backup system. There are a few areas where power can't be rerouted. Next year's proposed electric budget is $10.8 million.

"The substation is critical for improvement of our electrical system," Person said. "It's a very expensive ticket item."

Some of the city's plans would upgrade curb appeal in certain areas.

"We're going to try to do something really spectacularly neat out at the 11th Avenue and Old Post Road for a landscaping project out there," Person said.

"The trails project is another one that people are probably believing is never gonna get built," Person said. "I think we're to the final hurdles of getting to where the project can be bid out. Our hope is that will be able to be under construction this spring."

The idea of a convention center has been put on the backburner, but is not totally out of the question down the line.

During the next year, the city's 1.5 percent sales tax is projected to bring in around $2.5 million. The new half cent sales tax is projected to generate around $800,000 in the coming year and city officials think the tax will average a revenue of $1 million over ten years.

The police department's budget for next year is set at $1.5 million The police budget is a need because although Sidney's official population is around 7,000, it's almost twice that during the day when all the vendors are open and all the highway traffic, Person said. The four highways that run through this area bring 12,000 to 15,000 vehicles through Sidney every day.

"It has the positives in the fact that it really helps grow your economy, and the challenges are that you've got to provide services for a community much larger than what you look like on paper," Person said.

This fall, the city will hire consultants to do a feasibility study to decide whether or not to build a new law enforcement center and where to locate it.

The city plans to accomplish a plethora of projects in the next year. Person thinks that the city's ability and willingness to take care of any major issues hindering growth in the past years has enabled the city to move in a positive direction.

"This is the thing that has really set the table for all the great, exciting things that you see happening now," Person said. "And that is that we've addressed all our major infrastructure. We've got a new water well field, we've got a new waste water treatment facility, we've got a new regional landfill."

He also attributes the city's success to its long term contract for electrical distribution, the new high school and the potential of new grade school. Person thinks that the attitude in Sidney is what keeps the community moving forward.

"We're not gonna sit back on our laurels or sit back and watch like a lot of rural communities have and watch their futures wither away with time" Person said.

Sidney's economy is strong because it's diversified, he clarified.

"That's what we've built here in Sidney," Person said. "And that's why the future is so bright and so promising. So those communities that look at us from the outside looking in with a lot of envy, what's going on here. Our message back to them is that we've worked very hard to get to that. It didn't happen by accident. It happened by people working together, by partnerships being formed."

Close partnerships between the city, county and chamber of commerce are vital to Sidney's success, Person said.

At Tuesday's meeting, city councilman Mark Nienhueser warned city officials that although the council would tolerate rolling over funds from projects not completed this time, he expects to see more things happen in the next fiscal year.

"That's fine, but I guess I just wanna raise the expectation again," he said. "We need to get things done. There are a lot of things we put on the list that didn't get done."

Nienhueser was adamant that taxpayers see results from their contributions to the city. He mentioned new storm drains on 7th Ave. as an example.

"Because next year—I guess I'm just gonna go on the record," Nienhueser said. "When there's work out there to be done, especially on these type of things, I guess we're just gonna stop rolling over and just send the money back to the taxpayers, because we gotta get these things done."

Public services director John Hehnke assured Nienhueser that if the city had the money for a project, the city will do its best to complete that project.

Nienhueser also mentioned the intersection of 11th Ave. and Old Post Road.

"I don't want to roll a bunch of funds over next year, when there's a lot of things that we can get done in this community to change the curb appeal," Nienhueser said.

Some of the proposed projects would do this, he added.

City officials plan to respond positively to Nienhueser's warning.

We've given you the funds to get the projects done, go get them done," Person said. "That was the message and I think the staff heard it loud and clear."

Those working for Sidney hope the next year is a productive one.

"It's gonna be one of those years, no excuses, let's go get it done," Person said.


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