East Grand Forks leaders are set to wait on the results of an ice arena study they commissioned in June before they further consider replacing an expiring sales tax with a new one.
City Council members on Tuesday took a look at 17 projects -- mostly revamped roads and parking lots -- that could be paid for with sales tax revenue or, in many cases, federal or city money or assessments, where property owners who live alongside a project are charged for some or all of its cost.
One of the most potentially costly items on that list is building improvements at the city’s Civic Center and VFW Memorial Arena, possibly via sales tax. City leaders opted to wait on the results of a $10,000 study that is set to analyze their options for those buildings, which could be as drastic as building a new arena and turning the VFW into a multipurpose facility.
In 2016, East Grand Forks voters approved a 1 percent sales tax that city staff expect to expire in about a year. The tax brings in about $74,000 each month, and the city uses that revenue to pay back the loan it took out to pay for renovations at a public pool at Sherlock Park.
The Minnesota Legislature and Eastside voters both need to sign off on a municipality’s sales tax before it can go into effect. A sales tax expires when it brings in X amount of money or when Y amount of time has gone by -- whichever comes first.
Mayor Steve Gander said the city's first objective should be to fund any project through “normal channels” and that it might not sit well with a lot of East Grand Forks residents if the city was “too eager” to try to institute a new sales tax.
“We’re going to have a dickens of a time funding our arena situation. We know that,” Gander said. “That’s been a little bit of a train wreck out ahead of us that we have not been able to reckon with. That one probably will meet the threshold and, yet, as that one is there, we can look ahead and be pretty strategic and plan for it. And I think our people would fully understand that.”
City staff members told the Herald said they expect to have preliminary information from that facilities study in September or October.