By Teri Knight, News Director
An Ice Arena project is not part of the plans for a possible local sales tax option, however, maintenance of the old one is. Should legislators approve allowing the City of Northfield to put a ½ cent local sales tax option on the November ballot, the bulk of dollars taken in would be for parks and recreation. Something city leaders say is desperately needed as they looked to purchase land for another park in a closed meeting beforehand. (Read previous news update on grant funding for the park) Administrator Martig explained this morning, “we have a lot of capital needs in our park systems whether that’s maintenance or some slight enhancements. We have a lot of needs out there”. He added that the projects must have regional appeal, “like our ball parks, our river corridor enhancements, Bridge Square, those types of things are
eligible projects and we know a lot of people outside of Northfield use those”. Mayor Pownell and most councilors, last night, expressed a desire to “educate the public” on why the local sales tax option is a good idea, utilizing the city’s communication department. Councilor Grabau commented, “the only thing that I’ve seen and heard are people saying the city council’s going to put another tax on us. They’re missing the step that it will come to the voters and I would just ask that we emphasize the fact that it’s their decision”. Peterson White added, “I would also add that there is a very key detail which seems to be lost in many of the conversations in the media, which is this is an attempt to alleviate the burden on the property tax payers. That it’s a little more complicated than they’re (meaning councilors) raising taxes”. The idea is that others coming into our community would supplement our tax base. Peterson White called it a more progressive taxation option. Zweifel concurred and felt the public should also consider the heavy non-profits in the city that do not pay taxes. DeLong said they need to be as clear as possible regarding how the taxes raised would be spent, adding that in Elk River, that regions market draw, 54% of their local sales tax comes from the residents. He said, “so I would hazard to say that over 50% of this sales tax is going to be generated by the people in the City”. He says they’re still instituting a tax. Martig commented this morning on determining that data, saying it’s hard to collect, “when the businesses collect the money they don’t exactly know where those people spending the money are coming from. So there’s maybe a couple of ways to do that. One is we know that credit cards are heavily used, so there’s got to be data out there and credit card companies who probably resell information about spending habits and where people live and where they’re spending it”. While that may be the most accurate way to collect the data, he said he’s not sure where to find it yet and how much it will cost to purchase it. The University Extension and Northfield EDA approved an annual study of the sales taxes offering to find a service to extrapolate how much spending does come from outside the community. Martig was less enthusiastic about that accuracy. Nineteen cities are requesting a local sales tax option. The tax for Northfield would be for twenty years or $13 million, whichever comes first. Martig’s full interview is HERE.
Dundas says no to share in a Solar Garden
Solar Gardens were on the Dundas Council agenda this week. Administrator Teppen said a company, Novel Energy Solutions out of St. Paul, approached the City about the City purchasing a share of a solar garden, yet to be built, to reduce their energy costs. The Council turned it down, “citing the long term agreement which is 25 years with a 10 year out. But if you chose the out you would have to pay for the credit for the full 25 years”. The City of Northfield agreed to a very similar proposal in 2017 with CF Novel Gardens 5. They are locked in with a 25 year contract. Should they want to terminate at 10 years into the contract, it would be almost $2 million.
Nfld Community Services will move in August
All of the Northfield School District Community Services will be moving to what is the current Greenvale Park Elementary school after the new one is built next door. Director of Community Services, Erin Bailey, said the building will be remodeled from June to August and then all the programs and people will move in at the end of August to start the next school year in the building. They are soliciting names for the remodeled building. In conjunction with the move, the department name will change back to Community Education. Bailey’s department has been somewhat scattered between Longfellow School and the Northfield Community Resource Center. She’s looking forward to a consolidation that includes the main office, Early childhood family education programming, Hand in Hand preschool, Early Ventures Learning Center and Adult Basic education, as well as support staff and teachers. The new school construction is going well as the shell went up and they can work indoors.