By Nancy McGill
Hebron residents and businesses would benefit from passing LB840, Randy Hergott told the Hebron City council in a resolution from the Thayer County Economic Development Alliance. The Local Option Municipal Development Fund, which will be on the May ballot, would use a third of the city’s annual sales tax, estimated at $60k, for small business loans, housing, tourism or matching to state and federal programs and packaging with local banks to reduce risk.
Hergott is the president of the Alliance board of directors and he signed the resolution, along with vice president Heather Ramsey and executive director Diane Wettstein.
Wettstein and Hergott brought the resolution to the council’s meeting Monday evening. Standing before the council, Hergott read it out loud.
“Be it hereby resolved that the Board of Directors of Thayer County Economic Development Alliance enter in its record to be in support of this ballot issue and to offer publicly its support for the approval of this ballot issue,” is the resolution’s final paragraph.
Also in the resolution was perhaps Hergott’s strongest point about LB840.
“It’s a no-brainer. It’s not a new tax,” he said. “I didn’t understand it wasn’t a new tax. I thought it was added and it isn’t.”
The resolution capitalizes “no new taxes” to emphasize:
“Whereas, this designation will result in NO NEW TAXES but rather a specific earmarking of current sales taxes now being collected,” the resolution reads.
Hergott said the Alliance already has a loan committee made up of volunteers, some of which are bankers, and there is no need for the council to develop another.
Under LB840, the council must appoint a Citizen Advisory Review Committee of between five and 10 members, who are registered voters within the city of Hebron and do not serve in public office, work for a public office or anyone associated with potential members, whether it be a qualifying business for the program or individual. At least one member of the committee must be financially savvy.
A city official or city employee, however, must oversee the administration of the advisory committee, serving as an “ex-officio.”
The loan committee Hergott spoke of is made up of mostly bankers. Collectively, the members are from Hebron, Deshler, Bruning, Carleton, Chester and Byron, and they review applications for USDA funds to be used in the county. Other funds in the committee’s path of economic development may come from the Southeast Nebraska Development District, for which there is an outside committee not affiliated with the Alliance.
“We chose these people on purpose because they know how the industry works,” Wettstein said about the Alliance’s committee. As for herself, Wettstein is a source of information.
“If it helps us build relations, I want to have more involvement in Hebron and have that connection. If there is something that needs done, I can help,” she said.
At the council meeting, Pat Kenner said earmarking funds through LB840 for economic development places accountability on at least a third of Hebron’s sales tax. Kenner, of Thayer County Bank, is a member of the Alliance’s board.
City Attorney Joe Murray said LB840 needs to pass first.
Kenner echoed Murray.
“These other things are way down the road. First, you have to get it passed,” Kenner said. “Other people around the county think it would be wise for Hebron to pass LB840.”
Kenner called the Alliance committee a “credit committee” willing to serve as a guide to the advisory committee and city council on financial-related matters regarding the LB840 process, provided the measure passes.
Thinking ahead, pooling resources between the city and county is a positive step for both, Kenner implied. Members of the Alliance committee are used to reviewing confidential financial applications from a neutral standpoint, and there is the possibility of Hebron setting up grants for downtown building improvements, a recommendation the credit committee might suggest, Kenner said.