In his Jan. 3, 2019, letter to the editor, Michael Larson states that a sales tax increase for the library, parks and streets, would incentivize people to shop outside their own community. Research on the Minnesota Department of Revenue website yields a 21 page list of counties, cities and townships that have a local option sales tax added to the state sales tax rate of 6.875 percent. The effective date of the list is Jan. 1 through March 31, 2019. In the majority of jurisdictions the combined rate is 7.375 percent. This is the same rate that Cambridge will have as a result of the local option sales tax referendum that passed in November with 62 percent of the vote.
A look at the areas around Cambridge yields limited shopping opportunities at a lower sales tax rate. Chisago, Pine, Mille Lacs, Carver, Sherburne, Wright, and Ramsey counties all have a 7.375 percent rate; however, the rate for St. Paul is 7.875 percent. Hennepin County has a 7.525 percent rate; however, the rate in Minneapolis is 8.025 percent. The total sales tax rate in the St. Cloud area is 7.625 percent. One could go to Anoka or Washington county for a 7.125 rate, but would that result in any savings if one takes into account the cost of gas, wear and tear on one’s vehicle, and the value of time?
Mr. Larson implies that a property tax would be a better vehicle for funding a new public library, city park enhancements, and street improvements. The Cambridge City Council choose the local option sales tax because it is the fairest way to finance resources that are available to everyone. Use of the library and city parks and streets is not limited to those living within the Cambridge city limits. Several surveys of library usage have indicated that about 50 percent of all library users live outside the city limits. Financing these resources with property taxes would place the entire cost on home and business property owners within the Cambridge city limits. With the local option sales tax everyone who shops in Cambridge will share the cost of resources that everyone has the opportunity to use.
Our referendum must be approved by the state legislature before the local option sales tax can go into effect. Contact Sen. Mark Koran, 3101 Minnesota Senate Office Building, St. Paul, MN 55155, 651-296-5419, and Rep. Brian Johnson, 243 State Office Building, St. Paul, MN 55155, 651-296-4346, email@example.com. Urge them to honor the will of the majority of Cambridge voters by introducing and supporting bills to approve our referendum.
Karen S. Lee, Member
Cambridge Public Library Task Force