Extra readability sought in gross sales tax pitch for leisure advanced – Put up Bulletin


ROCHESTER — A delayed attempt to renew Rochester’s half-cent sales tax to create, among other things, a regional recreation complex is expected to receive more study.

“I don’t want us to go more in the direction of offering everything to everyone because then it just washes out,” Rochester City Council member Mark Bransford said Monday.

“The regional sports complex needs to be better redefined,” he added.

Heather Corcoran, the city’s legislative policy analyst, said a review of needs related to the proposed complex would likely be sought early next year if the city council agrees to seek a sales tax renewal.

Originally approved in 1983, the 0.5% sales tax generates approximately $12 million per year and is expected to expire in 2024 unless renewed with the approval of the Minnesota legislature and Rochester voters.

The current proposal envisages generating a total of $205 million, with $65 million earmarked for the proposed recreation complex.

Another $50 million would be used for road reconstruction projects, with another $50 million earmarked for an Economic Vitality Fund that could spur local and regional housing efforts. The proposal also provides $40 million for future work related to flood control and water quality.

The tax would continue until all approved projects are fully funded.

The Minnesota Legislature’s failure to pass a statewide tax bill made it impossible for the city to seek voter support for this year’s tax renewal, but council members and city officials said talks continued in the hope that the Efforts to renew next year.

At the same time, Mayor Kim Norton said some community discussions have raised uncertainties surrounding the proposed complex.

“I know there are partners in the community who want this badly, but I’m not sure how strongly the community perceives those needs,” she said.

Additionally, she cited the potential for confusion without a clear plan.

“I don’t want us to set up false hope without defining who is going to have access to it and then people get disappointed in hindsight,” she said.

Corcoran said initial concepts for the complex pointed to something with an artificial turf pitch, tournament-grade pickleball facilities and outdoor recreational features. She said supporting indoor features and related community-oriented elements would also likely be part of the complex.

She said the proposed analysis would aim to identify gaps in the community so that a preliminary design could be developed to better see how community needs would be addressed.

Council President Brooke Carlson supported efforts to better define the needs associated with the proposed complex, but said community discussions needed to go beyond potential users.

“I want our community and more than just a few sports organizations to be involved in making this a meaningful asset for our city,” she said.

City Manager Alison Zelms said the work will also likely look at existing leisure facilities and planned projects to ensure the work does not clash with other facilities, including planned updates at Graham Park.

She said Olmsted County has well-defined goals for Graham Park and a new city complex should be able to complement such efforts and potentially lead to new uses of existing land.

“I think it will help flesh out the overall value, which doesn’t necessarily just mean you have a new complex,” she said of the proposed analysis. “That creates capacity in some other places to address other needs that we’ve heard from the community or gaps that we’ve heard from the community.”

The council has until Jan. 31 to decide whether the city will seek the Minnesota legislature to approve sales tax renewal efforts.

If approved, the tax would be subject to a local vote in 2024, which under current government requirements would require approval of proposed projects on an individual basis.

What Happened: Rochester City Council discussed the potential for further efforts to renew the 0.5% city sales tax to fund a new recreational sports complex, an Economic Vitality Fund, road improvements and flood control improvements.

Why it matters: Without an extension, the property tax, which has funded a multitude of projects since 1983 and currently brings in $12 million a year, will lapse in 2024.

What’s next: The council has by Jan. 31 to decide whether the city will seek a renewal of the tax.