LB840 contributes to growth over 10 years


Ballots will soon be mailed for Seward residents to vote on whether to renew the city’s LB840 program.

The Local Option Municipal Economic Development Act was created by the Nebraska Legislature in 1991.

It allows a city or village to set aside a certain percentage of its existing sales tax revenue for economic development projects that support business and job growth.

In order for a city to continue using tax dollars for this purpose, residents must vote to renew the program every 10 years.

Seward’s last LB840 election was in 2013, when residents not only approved the continuation of the program but also increased the amount of sales tax dollars that could be used from $75,000 to $150,000 per year.

That equaled $1.5 million over 10 years.

The Seward County Chamber and Development Partnership has endorsed renewal of the program, which allows the city to issue grants, low-interest loans or forgivable loans to businesses.

“We’re looking at how much was leveraged through the public investment,” said Jonathan Jank, president and CEO of the SCCDP. “What has that $1.5 million turned into?”

According to the SCCDP, the money loaned or granted through the LB840 program generated a total of $142 million in investments when paired with funds from businesses themselves.

Because the loans are revolving (businesses pay them back and the money is then loaned out again to another business), the $1.5 million has circulated through for a total of $2.3 million in loans and grants made over the last 10 years.

Jank cited several projects made possible by LB840 funding, like the Rivoli Theater’s expansion to a second screen in 2013.

“That’s something that’s so unique to our town,” he said.

When the historic I.H. Feary building on the courthouse square caught fire in December 2016, LB840 funds were part of the rebuilding effort.

“It takes a tool like LB840 to make the numbers work when you have challenging situations,” Jank said.

Since 2013, 67 Seward businesses have benefitted from LB840 funds.

Many of those benefits came from the TIME: Triple Impact Match Event gift card initiative at the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020.

A portion of LB840 funds was used to match every dollar spent on a gift card to a local business. Even though many businesses were unable to serve customers face-to-face because of the pandemic, gift card sales helped them sustain revenue to pay their bills.

“That was retaining jobs,” Jank said. “We were literally trying to keep the doors open and the lights on.”

The LB840 program has contributed to the creation of 255 jobs over the 10-year period.

Jank said one of the key points of the election will be educating voters that this is not an additional tax, but it’s taken from sales tax revenue the city would collect anyway.

So far, no organized groups have spoken out against the renewal.

The city’s LB840 fund is overseen by an eight-member application review board, which makes recommendations to the city council on whether to approve loan or grant requests.

That board has additional oversight from the five-member Citizens’ Advisory Review Committee.

The election will be conducted by mail. Registered voters within the City of Seward should receive a ballot in the mail the shortly after Nov. 21.

Ballots must be returned to the County Clerk’s office, either by mail, via dropbox at the courthouse or hand-delivered to the office by close of business on Dec. 12.