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LINCOLN -- The City Council will decide in July whether to ask voters to approve a sales tax increase to clean up the city and hire another police officer.

"We're wanting to promote a healthy environment for everyone in Lincoln to live, and we also want to promote Lincoln as a place that people want to move to," Mayor Rob Hulse said.

The city hopes to raise $170,000 annually from a three-fourths percent sales tax, city office manager Rhonda Hulse said.

The City Council agreed last month to consider an ordinance. If the ordinance is approved in July, voters can decide whether to raise the sales tax to 2.75 percent on Nov. 6.

Lincoln has a 2 percent sales tax, with 1 percent going toward capital improvement and the other 1 percent divided between the library and parks or recreation. The 1 percent sales tax for the library and parks brings in about $225,000 per year. The amount per year varies.

Rhonda Hulse said the sales tax is for the city's general fund, which can be used to pay for anything, but city leaders want to use the money for the city's police force and to pay for cleanup.

Police Chief Russell Morphis said having a sales tax is fairer for residents than other tax increases because people traveling through Lincoln would help pay for the improvements.

Morphis said his force consists of himself and four officers, which means there are times when officers work shifts alone or are on call to cover when no one is available to work. The department needs another officer to provide better service, spend more time investigating cases, reduce response times to emergency calls and increase officer safety, Morphis said.

Officers are responding to more calls and handling more potentially violent situations, including mental health and domestic abuse incidents.

"I believe officer safety also correlates into public safety," Morphis said.

Morphis said his officers get about 300 calls for service on average. Hulse said the city doesn't have any records showing police call volume or type. Lincoln recently started keeping handwritten police logs, she said.

If voters approve the sales tax, money will go toward keeping the city clean, city officials said.

Lincoln has an ordinance mandating property conditions. The city issues about 30 clean-up orders to residents per year, Hulse said. About 10 of those result in a fine, generally, but the number of orders has increased under the current mayor, she said.

Keeping the city clean costs the city money, city leaders said.

Last year, for example, the city spent $10,000 to demolish one home with a garage, Hulse said. The city also is involved in two lawsuits against property owners to force them to clean up, according to Washington County Circuit Court records. Cleaning up either of those properties is expected to cost more than $10,000.

"When we do condemn, we have to pay for it out of pocket," she said.

NW News on 04/17/2018

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Print Headline: Lincoln City Council to mull sale tax increase

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