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Rochester council readies new sales tax request

Request to authorize local vote on renewal of city's half-cent sales tax is expected to be sent to Minnesota Legislature next month.

Drone - Downtown Rochester
Olmsted County Governemnt Center in downtown Rochester. May 20, 2018.
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ROCHESTER — A renewal request for Rochester’s half-cent sales tax will make a return visit to the Minnesota Legislature.

The Rochester City Council voted unanimously shortly after midnight during Monday's meeting to request legislative approval to hold a public vote on the tax, which is expected to expire in 2024 without further action.

A similar request earlier this year stalled when the Legislature failed to take final action on a proposed tax bill.

“Maybe with a little momentum, we can get things done this year,” council member Nick Campion said of the legislative session that starts on Jan. 3.

The 0.5% sales tax, which was initially approved in 1983, generates approximately $12 million a year and is expected to expire in 2024 unless it’s renewed with approval by the Minnesota Legislature and Rochester voters.

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The current proposal calls generating a combined $205 million, with $65 million earmarked for the proposed recreational complex.

Near the end of a meeting that extended into early Tuesday morning, the council also approved an effort to seek proposals related to developing a final concept for the complex.

Deputy City Administrator Aaron Parrish said the request seeks to find a consultant to study community needs and expectations related to the complex, which has been proposed to include a synthetic turf field, tournament-quality pickleball facilities and outdoor recreation features.

“It will give us a concept design,” Parrish said of the potential contract, adding that a location for the facility has not yet been defined.

The request for proposals was approved with unanimous approval of the council.

In addition to the proposed recreational complex, the city’s sales tax request is expected to seek $50 million for street reconstruction projects, $50 million for an economic vitality fund that could boost local and regional housing efforts and $40 million for future work related to flood control and water quality.

The Minnesota Legislature will be asked to authorize local votes on all four projects, but could decide to approve only a portion of the requests.

Additionally, current legislation requires the city to ask individual ballot questions on each item, with a potential referendum in November 2024.

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What happened: The Rochester City Council unanimously approved a request to the Minnesota Legislature to authorize renewal of the city's half-cent sales tax.

Why does this matter: The tax, which was initially approved in 1983, generates approximately $12 million a year and is expected to expire in 2024.

What's next: The city will send the request to the Legislature, which returns to session on Jan. 3.


Randy Petersen joined the Post Bulletin in 2014 and became the local government reporter in 2017. An Elkton native, he's worked for a variety of Midwest papers as reporter, photographer and editor since graduating from Winona State University in 1996. Readers can reach Randy at 507-285-7709 or rpetersen@postbulletin.com.
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