YORK — In November 2014, York residents approved a 0.5 cent sales tax for community infrastructure and recreation. Prior to the election, the City of York and York Public School District entered into an inter-local agreement to form the York Community Infrastructure and Recreation Committee, commonly referred to as the LB 357 Committee. Major projects discussed at the time included improvements to Levitt Stadium, a baseball stadium complex, quiet zone, and track resurfacing. Sales tax revenues have been designated to provide funds to repay bonds for major infrastructure and recreation projects to improve the community and to invest in additional infrastructure and recreation projects when revenues allow it.
Now, eight years later, proceeds from the LB 357 sales tax continue to repay bond investments and generate revenue for other school and municipal infrastructure and recreation projects. Bonds related to LB 357 projects were refinanced last year at a very low interest rate. These savings, combined with good sales tax revenue, enabled one-time investments in projects consistent with the LB 357 goal to improve recreation and city and school infrastructure last year. In the 2021-2022 budget year, investments in LB 357 included a new playing surface for the ball diamond complex playground, a children’s play area and wading pool, accessible washrooms for Mincks Park near the new Peyton Parker Lane playground, a much-needed new HVAC for the library and upgrades to the Family Aquatic Center and a major lighting project at York Public Middle School.
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Approved 2022-23 budget LB 357 includes further improvements around Peyton Parker Lane Playground, resurfacing of York Public Primary School playgrounds, HVAC units for the Seniors Centre, crossing safety improvements and funds for a local game on the next major federal investment. in trails and pedestrian safety in York.
The LB 357 committee meets quarterly. Ahead of the committee’s September meeting, members requested information on the implications of the early redemption of the bonds. At the September meeting, members learned that the city would face penalties and a higher interest rate if the bonds were called early. In addition, the Treasurer reported that the current interest rate on cash exceeds interest rates on bonds. The members concluded that it did not make financial sense to pay the bonds early, especially at this time.
Sales tax revenues reduce the pressure on property taxes to fund the infrastructure and recreation needs of the city and schools.
Dr. Mitch Bartholomew, Superintendent of York Public Schools, noted that “the LB357 committee has made several important decisions using these funds. Over the past few years, YPS has resurfaced our athletics and tennis courts, replaced theater curtains and improved lighting.
City Administrator Dr Sue Crawford said: “So many cities and school districts are struggling to maintain infrastructure and cannot provide the opportunities that I see the city and the school here in York can provide. .”
Each year, representatives from York City Council and the York Public School Board, who make up York’s Community Infrastructure and Recreation Committee, meet ahead of city and school district budget decisions to track the revenue of the city. sales tax, ensure obligations are paid, and identify improvement projects.
York Public School board member Barb Skaden explained, “Its purpose is to monitor and support the recreational and infrastructure needs of 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.”
Amie Kopcho, YPS Board Member, added, “It is very exciting to work towards achieving these goals for both the city and YPS. As you can see, this tax has benefited York in many ways so far, and we look forward to continuing our collaboration and celebrating the repayment of the bonds. »
Councilor Tony North, one of four city representatives on the oversight committee, said, “LB357 is a great example of how partnerships can benefit the citizens of York. The inter-local agreement that the City of York and York Public Schools have entered into has been of great benefit to the schools, students and citizens of York. We hope to continue these partnerships to ease the tax burden and promote a good and strong quality of life in the City of York. Councilor Sheila Hubbard, who also sits on the committee, remembers going door-to-door in the spring of 2014 in York wards to tell voters about the positive opportunities LB 357 would provide. She said that while she was helping students at school, their conversations were interrupted every 20 minutes by train horns. Now that the Quiet Zone is over, this interruption at school and other places in York no longer breaks the day repeatedly.
Hubbard says the door-to-door work was worth it. “It is gratifying to see the Quiet Zone completed and a beautiful ball diamond complex completed which 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 town administrator join the meetings as non-voting members. The committee meets quarterly. Meetings are open to the public. Meeting times are published in the York News-Times, on the Community Calendar and on the City’s website.