The Sidney Sun-Telegraph - Serving proudly since 1873 as the beautiful Nebraska Panhandle's first newspaper

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By Forrest Hershberger
Publisher, Sun-Telegraph 

City Council Approves Vendor Fee

Annual Fee Added to Food Vendor Option


April 20, 2022 | View PDF

What is the best, most equitable tax and accountability system for food vendors, specifically for those who don't anticipate significant presence or revenue in town?

That is a question the Sidney city council has been debating since it was first approached by a man who wanted to start a hot dog cart, but was frustrated by the daily fee requirement.

On April 12, the Sidney City Council met over an agenda including a proposed annual fee schedule for food vendors.

City Manager David Scott proposed the fee schedule for vendors to an annual option. Vendors can pay $30 per day, or $350 per year.

In the discussion on vendors and fee schedules, John Phillips approached the council. Phillips and his wife Kim own the Fox Theatre and the popcorn and snack stand at the baseball fields. Phillips commended the out-of-town vendors for coming to Sidney, but also them to have proof of the food tax and state tax license.

“I think the playing field should be level,” he said.

Currently, the City does not track state licensing. However that is changing with the City agreeing to follow the Nebraska Department of Agriculture's recommendation to verify food licensing. The new fee schedule will go into effect June 15 of this year.

The City of Sidney is in a challenging situation: raise revenue on specific services without raising rates.

In the March 29 city council meeting, three ordinances and a resolution were presented to the city council to adjust water, wastewater and landfill fees. Finance Director Lane Kizzire said the intent of the fee adjustments is to raise revenue without impacting residential customer rates.

In the April 12 meeting, Kizzire said the Sewer and the Landfill departments have been in the red since 2018. Prior to the April 12 meeting, the council chose to continue the ordinances and table the resolution; the last rate adjustments occurred for the Landfill in 2017 and for the Sewer budget 2018. The City created the Water Debt Assessment in 2004 in order to pay off the original water project, he said in his memo to the council. The Assessment resulted in $15 added to each bill. The plan was to pay off the 2004 debt this year, reducing the debt to residents to $10 per month starting June 30. The 2015 project was scaled back in 2018 in both scope and cost. Kizzire said the debt assessment can be reduced to $5 per month on each bill, and $5 per month to cover the cost of the Wastewater Treatment Plant loan.

The Water Debt Assessment would then extended to June 15, 2048 or retirement of the note, and the Wastewater Debt Assessment would continue until 2030 or when it is retired.

The remaining $5 of the $15 that had been added to each service bill would be applied to the rates for Sewer and Landfill. Residential rates could see an increase of $1.50 per month and $3 increase for trash pick up. Effectively, residents shouldn't see an increase. Kizzire called it “a wash” with $5 reduced and a $4.50 increase in base costs.

He added that while adjusting rates and moving $5 from the Water Debt Assessment to the Wastewater Debt Assessment frees up almost $200,000 in the Wastewater budget, “we are still dealing with rising costs.”

The fee changes will go into effect July 1, after the bond the existing Water Debt Fee pays.

The council also approved the first of three readings on a proposed rezoning of a tract of land north of Old Post Road.


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