OMAHA (KPTM)- A big, bold cancer center. That's what the University of Nebraska Medical Center officials are planning.
But, they need more than $300 million to build it.
County and city leaders are checking budgets to see how much they can spare. But, footing the bill could cost taxpayers.
Douglas County Commissioner Marc Kraft explained, "This is going to be a premier facility that is going to knock the socks off of anything else that exists in the United States."
"I think it's great for the city as far as attracting people from all over the world to come study here," taxpayer Natasha Arens said.
A proposed cancer center at UNMC boasts the potential for top notch research and treatment.
But only after the construction of it, with cost soaring up to nearly $330 million. "That's needed to get this built and constructed but also to completely outfit the entire facility," Dr. Kenneth Cowan said.
UNMC turned to the city of Omaha and Douglas County to help fill some funding gaps. Combined, both are looking to contribute nearly $40 million.
"We had such a hard time with our budget this year, my initial reaction was is this the right way to commit future funds even though it's committed over ten years," worried Kraft.
A tough budget in Douglas County and in Omaha has some questioning if this is the right time to front money for the cancer center.
Douglas County is looking at contributing nearly $500,000 a year. That would add up to nearly $5 million over the next ten years.
The money would come out of the county's inheritance tax, which last year, brought in close to $12 million for the county.
"Since not everyone plans on that sort of thing, inheriting something can sometimes come suddenly. I can understand to some how that would be a burden," said Arens."
But Kraft says the benefits of the center outweigh the costs.
"50 years down the road we will benefit. This is a fantastic project for the nation not just Omaha, and for the economic development of midtown," said Kraft.
He said it would bring jobs and revenue into the city, and even raise property values
"When you look at what it will do, it is well worth the money spent," Kraft continued.
Omaha, on the other hand, is drafting an ordinance that could allot part of a cigarette tax, or tobacco tax, to the center. The tax would add 35 cents to a $5 box of cigarettes.
Over ten years, city leaders say that could add up to almost $40 million.
Douglas County could vote Tuesday morning on whether or not to contribute funds to the center.
Kraft says there may be a legal issue, as the county typically does not contribute to economic development, or private corporations, but rather to the "public good."
Nebraska Governor Dave Heinemann recently tried to get rid of the state's inheritance tax as part of his tax cut plan.
Commissioners say if the inheritance tax ever goes away, the county won't be obligated to keep paying for the cancer center.
Officials hope to break ground next year and finish by 2016.
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