Sen. Melisa Franzen (D-Edina) introduced a bill late last month meant to allow Edina residents the choice to impose a local option sales tax that would go toward improving the city’s regionally significant parks.

The bill, introduced by Franzen in the Minnesota Senate and presented to the Tax Committee March 25, has the potential to be included in a larger tax bill, which will be determined by the end of the current legislative session. If it becomes law, Edina residents will vote on whether to impose the sales tax in a referendum during the general election of 2022.

“Jurisdictions all have limits on their revenue and how they collect revenue,” Franzen told the Sun Current. “This is just anoter tool to support some amenties in the local jurisdictions. ... And then it has additional vetting by the public before it becomes effective.”

The sales tax, which would total a half-cent per dollar, would help fund up to three infrastructure improvement projects in the city.

Those projects are the Fred Richards Park Master Plan, the Braemar Park Master Plan and Weber Woods Park, including its stormwater facilities.

If a referendum does occur, voters would choose which projects to fund through the taxes.

The tax would be in place for 20 years or until the debt used to fund these projects is paid off. At its projected rate of .5%, the tax would produce about $4 million per year, according to a study prepared for the city by the University of Minnesota. That means for a collection period of 20 years, the total revenue from the tax would likely be more than $80 million.

“It’s really a very transparent tax because people know what the money would be going for,” Franzen said.

Eighteen similar proposals for local jurisdictions were also heard at the March 25 meeting.

Last year, the city sought a similar local option sales tax that did not ultimately materialize. At a special City Council meeting covering the issue earlier this year, Neal said the previous resolution was bundled with other cities’ resolutions. Mayor Jim Hovland, who testified at the Senate Tax Committee meeting, said the city has never before imposed a local option sales tax.

In order for cities to get monetary support for projects through a local option sales tax, local jurisdictions must create a resolution to be introduced through the State Senate Tax Committee, which must also include supporting documentation for the funding needs. Additionally, they must also demonstrate a regional significance to the project.

The Fred Richards Park project is estimated to cost $17.7 million. The 43-acre park, which would be built on the former golf course, would restore nature at the site while adding year-round recreational activities. The Nine Mile Creek Regional Trail runs through the site.

The Braemar Park project, which would cost an estimated $21.6 million, is more than 50 years old and needs improvements to continue to serve its guests, according to city documents. The 500-acre park includes Braemar Arena and Braemar Golf Course. Plans for improvements in the park include new trails for walkers, cross-country skiers and mountain bikers.

And regionally, Braemar Park attracts guests from not just Edina, but the metro, greater Minnesota, several states and Canada, the city indicated.

“Minnesota is the state of hockey and Edina is an integral part of that whole hockey culture,” Hovland said, arguing for the regional significance of Braemar’s ice rink. “It needs some signficant work.”

The last project that the tax is proposed to support is Weber Woods Park and its stormwater facilities, for $2 million. The cities of Edina and St. Louis Park bought the park from the city of Minneapolis in order to save it as green space. Edina’s parcel of 14 acres needs improvements on its park, open space and storm water management, according to city documents.

Franzen said it’s important to remember that Edina is among many other local jurisdictions that ask for this sort of funding option for public amenities. The process is still ongoing and ultimately, “the public and the residents of Edina will have the last word.”

– Follow Caitlin Anderson on Twitter @EdinaSunCurrent

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