Sales tax vote just days awayIt’s been a long road for the Worthington local option sales tax.
By: Laura Grevas, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — It’s been a long road for the Worthington local option sales tax.
Worthington residents have been debating the referendum for several months — and before that council members spent several years petitioning for the tax at the state legislature.
The tax would mean that shoppers in Worthington would pay an additional one-half of one percent on already taxed items like toys, electronics and cars.
Depending on income and family size, the average household would spend from $33 to $137 more per year.
The tax would fund the construction of Community Center complex and renovations to Memorial Auditorium. Collection would terminate after 10 years or after the projects have been paid for, whichever comes first.
Jeanene Townswick, who has lived in Worthington for more than 36 years, supports the tax, saying the two projects are a necessary investment in the city.
“In the past we have not pulled our weight in terms of keeping this city looking forward to the future,” she said. “If we’re going to attract a Kiwanis convention or hockey convention or any other type of convention, we have to have a facility to house them.”
“There’s no excuse that this city doesn’t grow,” added her husband, Maynard. “This town needs to get progressive a little bit. And we’re supposed to be the hub of southwest Minnesota. There’s no reason we shouldn’t be bringing new businesses in.”
Maynard said other towns similar in size to Worthington have grown while population growth here has remained low.
“You can’t even have your children get married and have a reception here unless you belong to a church that has a facility,” he said. “Well, if the kids can’t even get married here, how are they going to stay here? Why would you expect them to want to stay in this town to even work? We’re not providing them with opportunities.”
Maynard joins other proponents in saying the tax is a small price to pay.
“The older senior citizens think it’ll be such a burden,” he said. “If they would give up coffee once a week, it would pay the cost for the year. I don’t know that that’s too big a sacrifice to make.”
But others worry any tax is a big sacrifice to make in the face of a sagging economy.
“I think they are both necessary,” said Elite Audio owner Keith Stubbe of the two projects, “but right now, this isn’t the way to do it.”
As the owner of a small business that sells taxable electronics, Stubbe is concerned the tax may drive patrons elsewhere.
“It’s only half a percent, but it’s half a percent more reason for someone to shop elsewhere,” he said.
He, and others, have questioned whether the tax will really end after 10 years.
“The city has no control over this, the state does. And the state has said that… it’ll quit when the project is paid for or 10 years,” explained Ken Moser, head of the committee to pass the referendum. “So this will not continue on perpetually, and the money cannot go to the general fund.”
Moser said the tax is expected to generate an estimated $50,000 per month toward the projects, or $600,000 per year. If revenues fall short of that number, he said, the city will have to pay off the project bonds through other means.
“Based on the other folks I’ve talked to who have (passed similar referendums), they’ve covered it based on the projections that they’ve had,” Moser said.
People indifferent on the issue, Moser added, should note that declining to respond to the question on Election Day actually counts as a “no” vote.
Here’s a look at how the question will appear on the ballot Tuesday:
“May the city of Worthington, Minnesota, impose by ordinance a sales and use tax of ½ of 1 percent for the exclusive purpose of paying the costs of a community center complex and for renovations of the Memorial Auditorium which tax shall terminate 10 years after the date of initial imposition of the tax or when the City Council determines that the amount of revenue received from the taxes to pay for the project equals or exceeds $6 million?”