Sales tax increase approved

John Scarffe, Black Hawk.  A one-half percent sales tax increase, approved by voters in November, will take effect in January after approval by the Black Hawk City Council during a regular meeting on Wednesday, December 14, 2016 at 3 p.m., 211 Church Street. The Council also implemented an increase in the gaming device tax, with an associated rebate, and set the 2017 Schedule of Fees.

City Attorney Corey Hoffmann introduced the ordinance to increase the sales tax rate as approved by voters for purposes of marketing and promoting the City. In November 2016, the electors of the City of Black Hawk approved the increase.

The purpose of this article is to impose a 4-1/2 percent sales tax on the sale of tangible personal property at retail price, and the furnishing of services and credit sales as well as exchanges of property at retail price. It will be imposed upon every retailer in the City, with the revenue generated by one-half percent of such tax being dedicated to marketing and promoting the City through fireworks displays, holiday light displays, public flower boxes and other general governmental purposes, according to the ordinance.

The Council approved this ordinance, and another which will adjust the transportation device fee payment due dates and implement an increase in the gaming device tax with an associated rebate. With the recent decline in the number of devices available for play in Black Hawk, changes to device fees are necessary to balance the budget, according to the request for Council action.

“Additionally, a rebate mechanism has been developed to insure the City collects budgeted revenue, but not more,” according to the request. Hoffmann said the City has a revenue number it seeks to achieve based on device tax, but the amount fluctuates.

The idea is to take the devise tax up to the maximum amount approved by voters but then provide for an automatic rebate. The Casinos will only pay the amount necessary to meet the budget amount for the year, Hoffmann said. The rebate will kick in on a monthly basis when they file their tax returns.

Finance Director Lance Hillis said the rebates will kick in on January 1 based on the devices they have until the number drops below 7,200 devices. “If it falls below that we will not be able to generate enough income.”

Mayor David Spellman said that now the City is starting to say, “Here is the budgeted amount, with more emphasis on the budget rather than the number of devices.”

The Council approved the 2017 City of Black Hawk Fee Schedule for liquor licenses, business licenses and permits. Hillis said it was more clean up than anything. The Council approved a resolution to convert the City’s cobra head style street lights from high pressure sodium (HPS) to new light emitting diode (L.E.D.) under option A of the Street Light Program.

XCEL energy has finally made the leap to begin utilizing LED technology. “According to their propaganda, LED Street Lights produce more light per watt of power consumed than conventional light and have reduced maintenance costs. Plus, the cooler light emitted by LED’s provides a brighter, crisper aesthetic.

“The LED lighting is also ‘Dark Sky’ compliant, which is a designation given to outdoor lighting fixtures that meet the International Dark Sky Association’s requirements for reducing light pollution and minimizing glare, sky glow, spill light and obtrusive light. The lights are warranted from the manufacturer for 10 years, but are rated at 100,000 hours or approximately 23 years. The City would be on the hook for any labor costs associated with these new lights.

The City currently has approximately 289 poles with these fixture wattages, primarily 250 watt. XCEL has created a program that provides municipalities three options for conversion, however, they would like a decision by December 31, 2016.

Option A consists of XCEL changing out all the City’s cobra head lights to LED and providing a new monthly rate for those lights that includes the cost of conversion. Option A provides for immediate savings at year one.

“Knowing that technology can change rapidly and rates are likely to change within that time frame, the recommended option is to go with option A,” states the request. XCEL has indicated they would most likely be able to convert our lights within the first quarter of 2017.