Edina residents will see a tax referendum next year to improve regionally significant parks, following a City Council vote last week to put it on the ballot.
The City Council voted unanimously at its Aug. 17 meeting to adopt a resolution allowing city staff to begin the process of putting a local option sales tax question on the ballot of the General Election of 2022. The tax, which would be one-half percent, would look to pay for the infrastructure improvements of Braemar Park and the development of Fred Richards Park.
Earlier this year, the Minnesota Legislature adopted legislation to allow Edina residents the choice to impose the tax. The City Council needed to approve the law passed by the Legislature in order to allow the referendum to occur.
Residents will vote on the referendum Nov. 8 of next year and will choose the projects they would want to fund.
A third project to improve Weber Woods Park, which had been previously included in local option sales tax conversations, will not be on the ballot as it was not adopted by the Legislature.
“We’re very fortunate as a city to be included in local option sales tax legislation,” City Councilmember Ron Anderson said at the Aug. 17 meeting. “If the voters embrace this in the fall of 2022, we go forward with some very significant improvements.”
He added, “We’re knocking on the door of a significant step.”
The tax would be in place for 19 years or until the debt incurred to fund the projects is paid off. The tax’s projected rate of .5% would raise about $4 million per year, said a study prepared for the city by the University of Minnesota. This rate means that a collection period of 20 years would yield over $76 million in revenue.
“Jurisdictions all have limits on their revenue and how they collect revenue,” Sen. Melisa Franzen (D-Edina) told the Sun Current this spring, when she introduced Edina’s inclusion in the bill. “This is just another tool to support some amenities in the local jurisdictions. ... And then it has additional vetting by the public before it becomes effective.”
The state Legislature’s approval earlier this year is an accomplishment for the city as a local options sales tax had been sought by the city before. Last year, the city’s attempt to garner approval was unsuccessful.
“We were successful this year ... in convincing the Legislature to approve that opportunity for Edina voters,” City Manager Scott Neal said at the meeting.
In order for a local jurisdiction to be allowed to have a referendum for a local options sales tax bill, it must create a resolution that is introduced through the State Senate Tax Committee. It must also provide documentation for funding needs as well as regional significance.
If approved by voters in 2022, funds derived from the tax can be used to pay for the costs of collecting and administering the tax and paying for the infrastructure projects, including their associated bonding costs.
The Fred Richards Park Master Plan project is estimated to cost $17.7 million.
The former golf course site would be restored with nature and recreational activities as a 43-acre park.
Braemar Park is more than 50 years old and needs improvements to be able to maintain its use by residents, city documents said.
Its master plan is projected to cost $21.6 million.
The 500-acre park includes both the Braemar Arena and Braemar Golf Course. Improvements would include new trails for walkers, mountain bikers and cross-country skiers, city documents said.
Following City Council adoption of the resolution, city staff will now forward it to the Secretary of State’s Office to begin official filings.
“(I) look forward to having this conversation with the people in our community,” Edina Mayor Jim Hovland said at the meeting.
– Follow Caitlin Anderson on Twitter @EdinaSunCurrent