East Grand Forks leaders discuss sales tax, child care and local government aid during Legislative Day
Council members Mark Olstad, Brian Larson and Ben Pokrzywinski, along with Mayor Steve Gander and City Administrator David Murphy discussed the top city priorities with legislators
ST. PAUL – East Grand Forks city leaders are "hopeful" a proposed city sales tax increase will get a vote in St. Paul this spring.
The citywide sales tax, child care and local government aid were on East Grand Forks’ agenda for Legislative Day in St. Paul last week. City Council members Mark Olstad, Brian Larson and Ben Pokrzywinski, along with Mayor Steve Gander and City Administrator David Murphy were in attendance to discuss the top city priorities with legislators.
The 20-year 1% citywide sales tax proposal, which if successful would pay for upgrades and renovations for the city-owned VFW Memorial Arena, the East Grand Forks Civic Center and Itts Williams Park, has made its way to the Legislature before. Last year a 20-year 1.25% sales tax was presented before legislators, but a decision ultimately wasn’t made before the session came to an end.
This year Murphy said city leaders are “very hopeful” that it will receive the OK from legislators. If it does, the final step would be a citywide vote in November of 2024.
Murphy said there’s been indication that city officials were able to show that the improvements on the city’s facilities will impact the entire region.
“The reception that we got from the legislators, it appears that we were able to show them how it does impact the region as a whole,” Murphy said. “I believe we got the message across that yes it does impact the region.”
Last year the Parks and Recreation Department along with the University of Minnesota Extension conducted a survey looking at the economic impact youth ice sports have on the city including the number of visitors that travel to East Grand Forks for the sports events.
LGA is another recurring agenda item as city officials hope to tweak the formula so the city doesn’t lose that aid each year. A large part of how LGA is calculated is based on a city's pre-1940s housing. For East Grand Forks, the catastrophic 1997 flood took out many older homes in the community.
“That was a lot of the housing that was destroyed in the flood,” Murphy said. “So we don’t score as high in that formula so we’ve been losing LGA every year.”
While that formula wasn’t tweaked last year, Murphy said this year legislators are looking at changing it this year.
Murphy said discussions with legislators regarding child care weren't too in-depth as conversations mainly revolved around the East Grand Forks Child Care Fund the city is working on setting up with the Northwest Minnesota Foundation.
Creating a sustainable funding source for child care providers was first pursued beginning late last year and is part of the city’s Community Solution Action Plan to address child care needs.
The EGF Child Care Fund will help to address the capital and operating costs for child care providers in the city. Child care providers will be able to apply for assistance to help with a multitude of expenses associated with operating a child care center.