Input Sought About Sales Tax Renewal at Council Meeting

Members of the public are invited to attend a public forum Monday night at the Albert Lea City Council meeting about a request to renew the Shell Rock River Watershed District’s half-cent sales tax. The public forum will be at the beginning of the meeting at City Hall. Shell Rock River Watershed District Administrator Brett Behnke advised anyone who cares about area lakes to attend the public forum. “It just shows a good, strong community support,” Behnke said. A motion is scheduled for Tuesday’s Watershed District meeting for a request of an extension of the local-option sales tax. Behnke said if the Watershed District approves the request, final ballot language will be left to be set by the city of Albert Lea. The city also needs to hold a public vote and gain state approval before the sales tax is renewed. He said the district plans on requesting the tax to last either 15 years or until it collects $15 million for its second generation plan that includes the dredging of Fountain Lake and other projects. He said the initial referendum on the sales tax received more than 80 percent support in 2005 and has been a success in leveraging state dollars for local water quality projects. When the tax was initially approved, it was slated to last 10 years or until it had collected $15 million. The original local-option sales tax was extended for another five years in 2014. The $15 million is expected to be reached late in 2017, and the plan is in preparation of meeting that threshold. Albert Lea Lakes Foundation Board member Brian Hensley said he supports the renewal of the half-cent sales tax because the district is able to leverage grant money from outside sources from the tax. He said he likes the sales tax because it was voted on by voters and allows them to see first-hand results. Hensley said not renewing the tax would be a step backward for area lakes. The sales tax renewal could be on November’s ballot, but the request could also go to the Legislature in 2017 and be put on the ballot in late summer to fall 2017.
© 2015 Shell Rock River Watershed District, 305 S 1st Avenue, Albert Lea, MN 56007