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Voters face important decision on future of McCook
Voting against the economic development program on the May 10 ballot won't lower city sales taxes, but neither will it spell the end of economic development.
In 2015, voters approved combining and extending the 11⁄2-cent sales tax until 2033, but voted against continued funding of the McCook Economic Development Program.
As it is, one-sixth of McCook's city sales tax will go to economic development until the June 30, 2018. The total take was about $2.6 million in fiscal 2014-15, or about $435,000 to MEDC.
Cash contributions from MEDC members was more than $62,000 last year, and other income was received from grants and other programs.
If the proposal is voted down again, the city will continue to collect the 11⁄2-cent sales tax, but it will be up to the City Council to pass funds along to economic development activities under the LB840 law.
Not having the staffing and "war chest" of incentives available to attract businesses and support existing enterprise would put McCook at a distinct disadvantage in the competition for economic growth.
However, a better job must be done in creating transparency and promoting taxpayer and citizen ownership of economic development efforts. If voters approve the amendment to McCook's Economic Development Program, that ownership will come in the form of Citizen Advisory Review Committee, City Council oversight, and quarterly reports to City Council.
If the amendment is voted down again, the funds will be appropriated through City Council budgeting process and city council meetings.
Taking advantage of economic opportunities often requires confidentiality, so more closed City Council meetings would probably be on the horizon if the amendment fails again.
If voters OK the ballot proposal, the program would run through June 30, 2033. This decision will affect the future of McCook for the next two decades. It is too important for voters to not show up.
The deadline to register to vote for the May 10, 2016, Primary Election is 6 p.m. Monday, May 2, 2016. Register at the Red Willow County Clerk's Office in the courthouse on Norris Avenue.