by Dennis Dalman
St. Joseph voters will decide in the 2024 November general election if they are for or against the imposition of a local-option half-cent sales tax to help pay for a community center and for improvements to East Park in the city.
The city would bond for $11 million for the community-center project and $6 million for Phases I and II of the park improvements. The revenue from the proposed half-cent sales tax would then be used to pay off the bond issued over a period of years – up to 17 years.
The State Legislature, as part of a 2020 statewide bonding bill, did grant $4 million toward development of a community center in St. Joseph.
In the 2023 state legislative session, a law was enacted to allow the City of St. Joseph to ask for up to $18 million in half-cent sales tax revenue but only if the city’s residents would authorize that tax at a voting referendum. At the time, the legislature also decided to impose a moratorium on allowing a sales tax option in 2024 and 2025 until a committee can recommend a new process to allow new legislation.
St. Joseph did not receive any state bonding funds in the last legislative session. At the June 27 city-council meeting, members agreed to extend a contract with DeLaforest Consulting to lobby for state funds for a planned extension of a main sewer line and wastewater system if it is determined the legislature plans to pass a bonding bill in 2024. The DeLaforest Consulting firm, based in St. Paul, is considered to be one of the most effective government-relations companies. DeLaforest could also lobby for future bonding funds for the community-center project. The city has submitted applications for federal funding to three U.S. Congress members: Senators Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith, and U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer, who represents Minnesota’s Sixth District, of which St. Joseph is a part.
The community center is expected to be constructed on land next to the St. Joseph Government Center. East Park is located in the eastern part of the city along the Sauk River.