Council takes first step toward local sales taxThe process of seeking a local option sales tax is again under way after the Cloquet City Council unanimously approved a measure to that effect on Tuesday.
By: Jana Peterson, Pine Journal
The process of seeking a local option sales tax is again under way after the Cloquet City Council unanimously approved a measure to that effect on Tuesday.
In light of the city’s budget crunch (see separate story on A2), and its recent regionally-focused projects, now is the time to consider it, according to Cloquet Mayor Bruce Ahlgren.
“I’ve heard Hutchinson is going after it,” he said. “Time is of the essence.”
The local sales tax likely would be a half-percent, Ahlgren said. Back when they first began lobbying for the tax in 2000, city officials estimated it would bring $500,000 into the city’s coffers every year.
Cloquet was never successful in the early to mid-2000s in getting the state’s approval, however. Instead, it went to other cities across the state like Mankato and Worthington.
If Cloquet was to receive the go-ahead this year, the tax option would then be voted on by city residents during this year’s general election.
“Don’t underestimate the challenge of getting citizens to pass it,” warned council member David Bjerkness during the council’s working session.
Ahlgren countered that in the past attempts, local organizations such as the Cloquet Area Chamber of Commerce, Kiwanis and Rotary supported the idea.
“Of course that support was tied to specific past projects,” Ahlgren said.
Council members also discussed current projects of regional value – the cost of which serve as the reason for the tax. They cited infrastructure development of the proposed Interstate 35/Highway 33 retail area, recreational trail development and lighting at the area’s softball/baseball complexes as preliminary ideas.
“It’s all in the beginning stages,” City Administrator Brian Fritsinger said. “The motion gives us the task of doing the research so we can figure out just what we’d be asking for.”
The council also discussed making Ahlgren the unofficial lobbyist regarding the tax as it moves forward.
“We’ve spent thousands before to do this,” council member Neil Nemmers said. “I think we can pay [Ahlgren’s] mileage, room and board to act as a lobbyist. We need a heavy-hitter if we’re going to get the state to grant this tax.”