by Dennis Dalman
The City of St. Joseph currently gets back $1.42 for every dollar residents pay into the regional half-cent sales tax, according to St. Joseph Mayor Rick Schultz.
Schultz conducted a meeting Oct. 10 at the Wobegon Trail center. Only three residents – two men and one woman – attended the public meeting. Schultz told the Newsleader he has presented information about the sales tax to many area organizations in recent weeks, trying to inform people about the basics on the sales tax, which will be on the Nov. 4 ballot.
Voters will have a chance to vote yes or no to a request for an extension of the half-cent sales tax for 20 years – from 2018 through 2038. The current authorization for the tax will expire in three years unless voters approve the extension, which has been authorized by the state legislature. This will be the third time the sales tax was extended, if voters give approval.
If the tax is approved by St. Joseph voters, it’s estimated it could bring up to $11 million to St. Joseph through the 20-year term of the tax.
Any city that does not vote for the sales tax will not receive any of the revenue from the pooled funds.
When the half-cent sales tax went into effect 10 years ago, St. Joseph voters declined to be a part of it. Two years later, the city’s voters did approve it, along with the other area cities that had jumped aboard two years earlier: St. Cloud, Sartell, St. Augusta, Sauk Rapids and Waite Park.
Since then, St. Joseph has received an average of $280,000 per year from half-cent sales-tax revenue. That money has been used for various city projects, and some has been set aside for future projects.
Here is how the sales tax works: All business transactions in each of the six cities charge an extra half cent in sales tax on products sold. The money collected then goes into a fund. The first $900,000 of the revenue, each year, is used for jointly funded regional projects. Past examples include the library in St. Cloud and improvements at the St. Cloud Airport.
On the upcoming ballot, jointly funded regional uses include regional trail connections, an aquatics center and airport improvements.
After that jointly funded regional projects money is disbursed, the rest of the revenue each year is divided among all of the cities, based on their population and other factors.
Cities can use the revenue only for projects that have some regional aspect – that is, subject to use by all people in the six-city area. Such projects could include major roadways, public parks, trails or city facilities such as recreation centers that could attract people other than just that city’s residents. Half-cent sales-tax revenue cannot be used for maintenance.
On the Nov. 4 ballot, voters will be asked to approve the tax under one question, yes or no, which involves the following provisions:
Jointly funded regional projects: Regional trails and interconnection of the regional trail systems, not to exceed $500,000 annually; regional aquatics center, not to exceed $200,000 annually; regional airport, not to exceed $200,000 annually.
Regional transportation improvements and related infrastructure: Not to exceed $10 million of the tax revenue received by St. Joseph. Examples can include, but are not limited to, streets, roads, related infrastructure and mass-transit projects.
Regional community facilities: An amount not to exceed $8 million of the revenue received by St. Joseph. Examples could include, but are not limited to, community center, senior center, historical center and branch library.
Regional parks, trails, open space and related facilities: Not to exceed $4 million of revenue received by St. Joseph. Examples could include, but are not limited to, public bathroom facilities, water amenities, expanding shelters and development of Sauk River Park.
The ballot question, in relation to the above, states: “Shall the City of St. Joseph be authorized to continue the collection of a half-cent percent sales-and-use tax through the year 2038 to pay for all or part of the above listed projects?”
photo by Dennis Dalman
St. Joseph Mayor Rick Schultz discusses the half-cent sales-tax ballot question with Sartell resident Mike McDonald. Only three people showed up for the informational meeting Oct. 10 at the Wobegon Trailhead Center.