City to tackle sales tax, flooding, more

This year will see a full slate for Lebanon.
Jan 3, 2014

This year will see a full slate for Lebanon.

“We have a lot of balls or pins kind of juggling right now,” said Mayor Philip Craighead.

Several of the items planned are continuations of projects started in 2013 and run the gamut from beautification and renovations on the square to addressing drainage issues throughout the city.

Cumberland Center Development District

First on the agenda will be trying to drum up support for a proposed entertainment district in Lebanon.

Councilors were set to vote in December on the second reading of a measure to establish a Cumberland Center Development District of about 257 acres and to create a fund for the future development of a multipurpose event center at the heart of the district.

According to Mayor Philip Craighead, a private developer owning about 165 acres of the district would hand over title to 20 acres for the city to build the event center in exchange for the city adding infrastructure to the property.

Council delayed its final vote until councilors could talk with county commissioners and county school board members.

As part of the plan, the city would seek a collaboration with Wilson County and Wilson County Schools to help fund the proposed event center. Each entity would contribute sales tax dollars generated within the district to the fund.

Neither the county nor the school system has yet formally agreed to participate, though.

The three entities will meet Tuesday for a joint work session to discuss the proposal.

“If we can get that [support for the project], we can start the sinking money to put into the savings so that one day we’ll try to be ready to be able to have a nice center for entertainment to attract new dollars -– revenue dollars, tourism dollars,” said Craighead.

Health insurance

Craighead said the City also plans to look at employee health insurance issues this year.

“We’re talking with people now and just trying to see what we have to provide and make sure our policies fall in line with Obamacare,” said Craighead.

After more than three years of piecemeal implementation, most of the major provisions of the Affordable Care Act will kick in for 2014.

Many of the biggest changes, like the health insurance marketplaces and subsidies to help consumers purchase coverage, debuted in 2013. But marketplace insurance policies don’t take effect until January, and the federal government won’t make subsidy payments to insurers until mid-January.

One of the provisions, though, relates to an additional health insurance tax.

Beginning in 2014, health insurers will join medical device makers and drug companies as industries that must pay new taxes in exchange for the new revenue they will see as an estimated 25 million people enroll in private coverage over the next decade.

The premium tax on insurers is expected to raise $8 billion in 2014 and more than $100 billion over the next 10 years, according to estimates by the congressional Joint Committee on Taxation.

The money will help pay for the health care law’s expanded Medicaid coverage and financial assistance for people purchasing marketplace health coverage.

The joint committee has estimated the tax would cause premiums to increase between 2 percent and 2.5 percent as insurers pass the tax on to consumers. In 2016, it estimated the tax would add another $350 to $400 to the annual cost of coverage for a family of four.

Craighead said the City would have to consider options in the event that premium costs rise for the City.

“We can’t continue to support the increases year after year without doing something a little different,” he said.

Flooding

Also on the City’s radar for this year is addressing the city’s flooding issues.

In October 2012, the Lebanon City Council passed a measure to free reserve funds to address flooding after storms and heavy rainfall brought the drainage situation to a head. Councilors said they were inundated with calls about flooding in their districts.

At that meeting, Ward 3 Councilor Rob Cesternino proposed giving each ward $50,000 from reserves to address the problem. Ward 2 Councilor Kevin Huddleston countered with a motion to give each city ward $100,000 to work on flooding issues. The council ultimately voted in favor of releasing $600,000 from reserves to address flooding issues immediately. The measure passed handily on its second reading.

Through much of 2013, the city collected information from residents about the areas of the city that routinely experience flooding.

Craighead said the city is ready to take that information to come up with solutions.

He said Lebanon City Council on Tuesday will consider a reorganization of crews to allow one crew to focus solely on correcting drainage problems.

“Our crews, as available, were to go out and do things, but we were not overstaffed,” said Craighead. “To get everything done, that means you’re not able to dedicate something every day.”

With the reorganization, the City will have a crew dedicated to resolving the flooding issues.

Lebanon Town Square

Craighead said changes to the Lebanon Town Square are still on the City’s radar.

“We’re still working and pushing on the beautification and renovation for the square,” said Craighead. “It’s in the State’s hands right now, and we’re working on getting them some information for lighting and irrigation and things like that.”

He said the State’s already finished engineering and design, and he hopes they’ll be ready to send out bid packages soon.

Sales Tax

Craighead said he hopes to revisit a sales tax increase for the city this year.

Lebanon City Council on Tuesday will consider asking citizens for a half-percent sales tax increase, raising the rate from 2.25 percent to 2.75 percent.

[In 2012] we had the sales tax referendum, which was kind of soundly defeated,” said Craighead. “So instead of starting every year $2-3 million in the hole, council did the property tax increase. What I’m proposing is that we relook at the sale tax possibility, and along with that, if it were to pass, we would hope then to have a substantial decrease in our property tax.”

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