Excelsior sales tax approved by Minnesota Legislature

The Excelsior City Council has approved the first reading of an ordinance imposing a half-cent sales tax to help fund the improvements to the Commons Park. Dozens of events are hosted in the park every year, including concerts, the annual 10,000 Lakes Concours d’Elegance car, motorcycle and boat show and Art on the Lake. (SUN SAILOR File PHOTO)

The Excelsior City Council on June 3 approved a resolution approving the city’s authority and conducted the first reading of an ordinance imposing a half-cent sales tax to help finance improvements to the Commons Park.

The second reading of the ordinance will be at the Monday, June 17, council meeting, according to City Attorney Kevin Staunton.

Excelsior’s sales tax authority was approved by the Minnesota Legislature and signed by Gov. Tim Walz but isn’t effective until the city passes the resolution and adopts the ordinance, Staunton explained to the council.

The State Department of Revenue needs 90 days of notification before the start of collecting the tax, which can only begin on the first day of a fiscal quarter. Public notice must also be given 60 days before the tax begins to be collected, according to Staunton’s memo to the council.

The collection would start Oct. 1 if the council adopts the ordinance at the June 17 meeting.

Both actions passed the council on unanimous votes. Councilmember Jennifer Caron was absent from the meeting.

According to the legislation, the tax shall expire at the earlier of 25 years after it is first imposed or when the city council determines that $7 million has been received from the tax to pay for the cost of projects authorized.

Mayor Todd Carlson thanked the many people involved in getting the legislation passed since the efforts began in 2013, including former council members and mayors and Sen. Dave Osmek (R-Mound) and Rep. Kelly Morrison (DFL-Deephaven).

“This is really a big deal, it’s a big deal for the city of Excelsior,” Carlson said.

Councilmember Gregg Miller expanded the list of those who needed to be thanked to include City Manager Kristi Luger and Deb Rodgers, the chair of the board for Community for the Commons, and noted that all the players came together to testify and show the need for the sales tax.

The legislative approval is exciting for the community and the residents who have been working on the master plan, according to Rodgers. Community for the Commons is the nonprofit conservancy working to improve the park.

“We feel this great sense of relief, excitement and obligation to make sure the money is well-spent,” Rodgers said.

In the coming months, city officials will work on estimating the revenue from the sales tax, which can be used to pay for bonding, Rodgers said. Community members and business owners can also expect to be asked what their priorities are, to help determine how the 14 projects in the master plan will be organized over time.

The $7 million in sales tax revenue represents around half of what is needed for the master plan, Rodgers stressed. The nonprofit will continue to look for philanthropy, grant and programming partners for fundraising help.

The master plan that was adopted by the council in November 2017 includes improvements to make the 13-acre park more walkable, restoring the beach and shoreline, enhancing accessibility in the Port of Excelsior, creating a more established gathering spot, adding bike parking, adding winter amenities, creating more area for play and adding or redoing existing structures including adding more restrooms and creating a new band shell.

Rodgers also expressed appreciation for the work that Osmek and Morrison did on the legislation.

“They exhibited strong leadership in the process, we are really thankful to them,” she said.

Morrison noted that approximately 100,000 visitors from around the state enjoy the park every year and that Excelsior’s small tax base cannot generate the funds to maintain the park. “This is Excelsior’s third attempt to get the tax approved by the Legislature, and I was happy to author the bill that finally got across the finish line. People near and far will benefit from a repaired and well-maintained Commons park,” she noted.

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