UPDATED: Mayor rescinds veto, EGF to pursue sales tax for pool project
East Grand Forks Mayor Lynn Stauss rescinded a veto Friday that would have stalled the city's swimming pool renovation after a majority of City Council said it could support a sales tax to pay off the project's loan.
East Grand Forks Mayor Lynn Stauss rescinded a veto Friday that would have stalled the city’s swimming pool renovation after a majority of City Council said it could support a sales tax to pay off the project’s loan.
The council met in a special meeting to vote on overriding the veto, though the vote turned out to be unnecessary.
“I noticed that a majority of the council would support a sales tax to pay for the swimming pool,” Stauss said during Friday’s noon-hour gathering. “I will remove the veto, and we will go ahead and work as a council to get that sales tax implemented.”
Rescinding the veto also means the construction bid for the $1.8 million project submitted to the city stands as accepted. Friday was the last day of the 30-day period the bid would be valid.
Melody Olstad, organizer of nonprofit organization Save Our Pool initiative and wife to Council President Mark Olstad, said her organization would help in anyway it could.
“The difference between a place to live and a community is the amenities such as a pool,” she said.
An informal poll taken during the meeting showed at least four of the council’s seven members could support pursuing a half-percent sales tax.
The tax revenue would be used to pay off a $1.8 million loan from the city’s Water and Light Department that has been approved earlier this month as funding for the project. Stauss said the sales tax revenue could pay off the loan quicker than using money from the city’s general fund.
“I want to keep property taxes for the East Grand Forks people down as much as we can,” Stauss said. “We have to remember that some of the things we do are wants, and some of the things are needs.”
He categorized paying for a solution to the city’s wastewater plans as a need and the swimming pool renovation as a want.
Several council members spoke in favor of the tax in front of an audience of about two dozen residents.
Council member Mike Pokrzywinski said residents and business owners he had spoken to had favorable reactions to a sales tax.
“Let’s get to work and get this sales tax passed and get this pool fixed,” he said.
While not every project can qualify for implementing a sales tax to fund it, council member Craig Buckalew said the pool project is a good candidate as it could be considered a project that would see regional use.
“On this particular item, it does make sense,” he said. “It is a regional venue, and I think it qualifies very well for support of a sales tax.”
No matter how much support a potential sales tax has from city officials, the process for implementing one is more complex than a council vote.
“You know it’s not that easy mayor,” Vetter said following Stauss’ request for an informal poll of council members. “Just because the council supports a sales tax, it still has to go to a vote of the citizens and they might turn it down.”
Minnesota’s process for initiating a sales tax would start with the council passing a resolution outlining how much the tax would be, the amount of revenue raised, what it would be used for and when the tax would expire.
Then it’s on to a public vote held 90 days after the council passes the resolution.
Should it pass, a special law authorizing the tax would have to be enacted by the state Legislature before becoming an active tax.