Community

What is Infrastructure?

Infrastructure makes up our roads and transit systems, water pipes and water treatment, as well as our parks and waste facilities, to name just a few. Most people don’t ever think about what infrastructure is, unless it isn’t working.  Often times residents and business owners don’t see the impact of outdated infrastructure.  Our grandparents and their grandparents spent generations building infrastructure that today is essentially seamless, but older infrastructure can’t be expected to perform without investment and maintenance to keep it in good working condition for a growing population.

Why is Gering proposing a 1/2 cent sales tax?

  • City streets are deteriorating at a faster rate than annual budgets can support for replacement and improvements.
  • New sidewalks and ADA accessible curbs are needed throughout the city.
  • Some existing water mains date back to 1917 and are in dire need of replacement.
  • Sanitary sewer lines date back to 1928 need replaced and updated.
  • Federal and State assistance has decreased dramatically and in some cases eliminated.
  • Bonding rates are at an all time low – around 2%.
  • Sales tax is paid by everyone who spends money in Gering, not just Gering residents.

What are the facts?

  • If Proposition 1 is approved by the voters, approximately $600,000 will be raised per year to assist in addressing these urgent infrastructure needs.
  • This is a tool for the City to be proactive rather than reactive.
  • This tax will sunset in ten years or at such time that the bond is repaid.
  • All cities are experiencing the challenge of updating infrastructure.
  • All proposed improvement projects involve street, sidewalks, curbs, water mains, and sanitary sewer lines.

Who determines how the funds will be used?

A Community Redevelopment Authority (CRA) is established by state statute.  The Authority for Gering includes members of Gering City Council as well as elected officials of Scottsbluff and Terrytown.  Recommendations for projects are received from the Gering Public Infrastructure Cooperative which will be established once the tax is in place.  Approved projects will be based on their positive impacts on neighborhoods and the community.

Budget Estimates:

Streets – Total estimated amount for needed projects: $4,338,636.60

Water Mains – Total estimated amount for needed projects: $3,334,500.00

Sanitary Sewer Lines – Total estimated amount for needed projects: $549,500.00

Total Project Costs:  $8,222,626.60

How does infrastructure impact our community:

Many people will ask why Infrastructure matters to a community.  Regardless of community size, infrastructure in American is in a state of desperate repair.  Infrastructure goes beyond your traditional highways, trains, bridges, and airports.  Infrastructure at a local level is crucial for healthy communities to thrive.  Creative infrastructure investments that increase opportunity and encourage growth help economic challenges in all communities.  Quality of life, Economic Development, Housing, Tourism, Recreation, and future growth and sustainability are all impacted by our communities infrastructure.

Gering Proposition 1 Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

A: It is likely that previous Councils were trying to balance a budget, just like the current Council, and the funds were just not available. In years past, the City did begin a program to replace the oldest water lines in the system, but in the late 1990s, new federal mandates changed the drinking water quality standards for the City. At that point the City stopped replacing water mains in order to start building a fund for new infrastructure to address the new requirements. In 2010 the new system, including a new wellfield west of Scottsbluff, was completed. The City had to borrow money to complete this $9,000,000 project, and the water fund continues to make those debt service payments every year, and will be continuing to pay off that debt until 2037. Due to these debt payments, the City has not had funds to continue with the replacement of aging water mains without drastically raising utility fees. At the same time the City received new drinking water quality standards, the water quality standards for the City’s wastewater were also made more stringent. The City had to do a major wastewater treatment plant upgrade, costing roughly $3,500,000. This project was also bonded. Just like the water fund, the debt service for this project has prohibited the City from making improvements to sewer lines. Elected officials have made keeping utility rates reasonable their highest priority. However, that does not mean that the problem is going away. Every year that goes by without investment in our infrastructure only compounds the unfunded liability to the City.
A: The City regularly does maintenance and repair projects on City streets. The City receives street funding from the state, which is primarily generated by fuel taxes. The amount of funding available varies from year to year. In a typical year, the City has roughly $500,000 to spend on street improvements. In the last two years, completed projects include the resurfacing of U Street between 3rd Street and Lockwood Road ($330,564) and the resurfacing of the intersection of M Street and Lockwood Road ($192,510) in 2020, as well as the resurfacing of A Street ($103,979) and Holly Street ($66,541) and the replacement of Twin Cities Drive North ($73,709) and Overland Trails Road ($289,582) in 2021. These projects combined cost a total of $1,056,885. Unfortunately, there are far more streets in need of repairs than the City can afford with current levels of funding.
A: The issues with our infrastructure are not going away. Every year, our streets, water lines, and sewer lines continue to deteriorate. While no one likes paying more taxes, essentially it is a question of whether we are going to confront this issue today, or leave it until later, when it will be more expensive and more complicated to address. If funding cannot be generated through sales tax, the City has few other options. Most likely, utility rates would have to be raised considerably to generate enough money to replace the aging water and sewer lines.
Inflation is a serious concern to all of us. While residents are struggling with inflation in their own budgets, the City is struggling with inflation as well. The City first requested this sales tax in 2016. If it had passed then, the same projects listed above would have been far less expensive to install. For example, the waterline on O Street from 10th to 17th was estimated to cost $225,000 in 2016. With today’s prices, that same waterline is now estimated to cost $377,000. Every year we wait to complete these projects, costs for the City go up and the need continues to compound.
A: Costs for each individual project will continue to increase. At some point, these costs would be passed on to the users of the system in the form of higher utility rates.
A: At this time, city staff is unaware of any money that would come directly to the City for infrastructure. The infrastructure bill is targeted towards highspeed internet, public transit, airports and ports, passenger rail, electrical vehicle chargers, and other goals unrelated to local streets, water, and sewer and lead water service line removal.
A: Long before making any decisions to construct new fields and a stadium, the City procured a Regional Recreation and Leisure Services Study. The consultants who conducted the study held public round tables to gather input from community members who use, or are involved with, recreational services such as the ballfields and other amenities. The study concluded that there was a strong need for a more organized and functional baseball/softball complex. In addition, it was determined that the number of youth that utilize these services was substantial enough to justify building a new complex and adding an additional Legion-size field/stadium. The new amenities would create tournament opportunities and subsequent "sports tourism" which benefits the Scottsbluff-Gering area with "heads in beds", fuel purchases and additional economic impact through the purchase of goods and services. The entire project was bonded and the annual payments are budgeted by the City's Recreation Department. With the exception of the Golf Course and RV Park, the Recreation Department receives funding from the City’s General Fund. Infrastructure is not a General Fund Expenditure. Street projects are financed through an entirely different set of revenues and State Highway Funds. Water and Wastewater is an Enterprise Fund, largely funded by utility fees. Again, improvements to water and wastewater infrastructure are not funded by the General Fund. Sales tax revenues that are generated because of sports tourism, and other tourism activities, will help fund infrastructure projects through an additional half cent sales tax. It's a tax that everyone pays, not just Gering citizens and not just property owners. In essence, Dome Rock Diamonds and the new Oregon Trail Stadium will actually help fund infrastructure through additional sales tax that is already being generated through baseball, softball and tournament activities.
A: The term for the sales tax is 10 years. At this time, estimated costs for projects slated to be replaced or improved with revenues from the sales tax closely equal the amount of money that would be raised in a ten-year period. No one can predict what future Councils will do, but the City believes a lot can be done with the revenues that will be raised in this 10-year period.
A: No, the City of Gering has chosen to propose using the sales tax generated solely for infrastructure. The City of Scottsbluff will be proposing a similar sales tax that would be used for an aquatics center.
A: No. The proposition that is outlined on the ballot clearly states that any sales tax that is generated from this measure will only be used for infrastructure. If passed by the voters, the City will be bound by the language that was approved and will not be able to use the funds for any other purpose.
A: Most of these projects would be completed within the next 3-5 years. Some projects may not be completed until later in the 10-year period.

Donate:

If you are a business or individual who would like to donate to the Gering Grassroots Volunteer Committee for the education of Proposition 1, please contact Gering Grassroots at the Twin Cities Development Association office at 1620 Broadway in Scottsbluff.

Additional Information:

Map of Projects

Priority Projects

Communities with additional 1/2 cent sales tax

Support Prop 1 Flyer