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Rochester council set to revisit sales tax renewal request

Proposed legislative requests for 2023 include effort to continue sales tax for new projects and state funding for trail, parking structure and new parks and forestry facility.

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ROCHESTER — A proposal to extend the city’s 0.5% sales tax into 2040 will be revisited Monday.

The Rochester City Council started the process to see a renewal of the tax, which is slated to end in 2024, but the Minnesota Legislature’s failure to pass a statewide tax bill left the city unable to seek voter support for the tax renewal this year.

Legislative approval of specific projects to be funded with the sales tax funds is required before a local vote on the issue can be held.

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The city’s current request calls for seeking approval of raising $205 million through the tax that currently generates approximately $12 million a year.

The funds would provide $50 million for street reconstruction projects, $50 million to address housing needs, $40 million for future work related to flood control and water quality, and $65 million to create a yet-to-be-defined regional community or recreational complex.

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The City Council will be asked during its study session at 3:30 p.m. Monday whether it wants to continue seeking permission for a voter referendum regarding the sales tax. It will also discuss other proposed 2023 legislative priorities.

If approved, the city would be expected to hold a citywide vote on the issue in 2024, providing nearly two years to define project details before residents cast their votes.

If the council wants to seek permission this year to move forward with the tax renewal, it must approve a resolution related to the request by Jan. 31, 2023, for consideration by the Legislature.

In addition to discussing the sales tax on Monday, council members will review several potential requests for state funding.

Proposed requests include $4 million for a proposed $8 million North Broadway Avenue park-and-ride parking deck near the Rec Center to provide commuter and special-event parking, nearly $1.9 million to cover half the cost of extending the city’s trail network to connect with Gamehaven Regional Park, and an undetermined amount to pay half the cost of a parks and forestry maintenance operations center.

The city is also asking for the ability to extend the 2020 authorization of $11.4 million in state funds for airport upgrades throughout the project’s seven-year schedule.

As with the sales tax approval, legislative decisions on 2022 state funding requests were never finalized. The trail extension was part of this year’s request, which also included requests for $14 million to help create a district energy system for downtown city-owned buildings and nearly $11.7 million related to proposed Silver Lake dam modifications and improvements.

The district energy and Silver Lake projects are not included in the proposed requests sent to the City Council ahead of Monday’s study session.

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Other legislative priorities set to be discussed on Monday include potential statewide housing policies, bridge funding, water-quality policies and a variety of issues that would provide greater local control over policy and funding decisions.

Monday’s discussion is intended to establish goals and priorities for city staff when the 2023 Minnesota Legislative session begins on Jan. 3, 2023.



Upcoming meetings

Meetings scheduled to be held during the week of Nov. 21 include:

Rochester

  • City Council study session, 3:30 p.m. Monday In council chambers of the city-county Government Center, 151 Fourth St. SE. The meeting will livestream at www.rochestermn.gov/meetings/council-meetings and be available on Spectrum cable channel 180 or 188 and Metronet channel 80.
  • Charter Commission, 3 p.m. Tuesday in room 104 of City Hall, 201 Fourth St. SE.

Rochester Public Schools

  • School Board, 5:30 p.m. Tuesday in the boardroom of the Edison Building, 615 Seventh St. SW.
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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