Mayor Chris Beutler today said the public safety sales tax has accomplished the goal of increasing safety and emergency response times in Lincoln. The quarter-cent sales tax approved by voters went into effect October 1, 2015 and ended Monday. Although the tax collection has ended, the City will receive two more monthly installments of revenue. Once these are received, the projected three-year total is expected to be about $38.14 million. The funds are being used for a new emergency radio system and four new fire stations, one a joint Police-Fire facility in southeast Lincoln.
"I want to again thank the voters for investing in the safety of our community," said Mayor Beutler. "We did this the Lincoln way -- by exploring options with residents, developing a solid plan and gaining bipartisan support. This is another win for our community, and we will continue to see the benefits for many years."
Public Safety Director Tom Casady who leads the projects said accountability to taxpayers was very important in the process. Details of revenues and expenditures have been posted at lincoln.ne.gov (keyword: sales tax). He said the projects ae being completed on a pay-as-you-go basis, and he expects them to come in under budget.
The new $12 million Motorola radio system now being installed replaces an outdated system originally acquired in 1987. The City reached an agreement with the Statewide Radio System to share core components. Users of the new system include the Lancaster County Sheriff's Office, the UNL Police Department, local hospitals and several other agencies. The Sheriff's Office will be the first public safety agency to use the system during a 30-day test period beginning this fall. Casady said the transition to the new system should be fully implemented early next year.
Three of the four new facilities are under construction:
Lincoln last added a fire station in 1997, and City growth left more than 10,000 addresses outside of the crucial four-minute travel time area. Four minutes is the national standard for travel time from a fire station to a life threatening emergency. Completion of the new stations will bring about 6,500 of the 10,000 addresses within the four-minute range.
Casady said the total cost of all the projects is estimated at $36 million. No decision has been made on how to use the remaining revenue from the sales tax.
Information for consumers, retailers and others who hold sales and use tax permits is available from the Nebraska Department of Revenue at revenue.nebraska.gov.