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Willmar City Council moves sales tax option forward

WILLMAR -- The Willmar City Council approved a motion during Monday's meeting to continue to pursue a local option sales tax. The motion allows work to continue on deciding which projects would be funded through a potential half cent, 10 year sal...

Willmar City Office Building
The Willmar City Council approved a motion during Monday’s meeting to continue to pursue a local option sales tax. The motion allows work to continue on deciding which projects would be funded through a potential half cent, 10 year sales tax. (FILE | TRIBUNE)

WILLMAR - The Willmar City Council approved a motion during Monday’s meeting to continue to pursue a local option sales tax. The motion allows work to continue on deciding which projects would be funded through a potential half cent, 10 year sales tax.
The council needs to pass a resolution that lays out the length of the tax, how much it would raise and the projects it would fund later this summer before the tax question goes to voters in November.
“This is a first step. We need to come up with what we want to do and if the community would support it,” Council Member Audrey Nelsen said.
“We’re not committing ourselves today,” Council Member Tim Johnson said.
Council Member Ron Christianson was the only no vote. Council members Denis Anderson and Steve Ahmann were absent.
“It is a tax. Who would you rather spend that money, the taxpayers or the government?” asked Christianson.
The possibility of people traveling outside of Willmar to shop if a sales tax was approved was discussed.
“If I spent a million dollars in materials this year in Willmar, that’s $5,000 in sales tax I would have to pay. Would I go out of town to do that for $5,000? Probably,” Christianson said, adding he knows he’d probably hurt local businesses by doing that.
Christianson also said he believes the tax is regressive.
“We’re hurting the people with less money, not the people with more money. Therefore it is regressive,” Christianson said.
However, City Administrator Larry Kruse said most regional centers already have their own sales tax.
“It is the nature of regional centers to offer broader services to their community,” Kruse said.
The council also approved a motion to have city staff come up with ideas to involve the public in selecting the projects. This could include traditional means like listening sessions or a town hall meeting and digital means such as social media and the city website.
“We have the means to get voices and feedback heard from a lot more people,” Council Member Andrew Plowman said.
A list of approximately 13 projects has been discussed at the committee and council level. These projects include a new community center, light upgrades at Swansson Field and a new ice refrigeration system at the Civic Center. However, council members also want to hear what the public thinks.
“We need to set that list aside for right now and come back with what the community wants to do,” Nelsen said.

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Shelby Lindrud is a reporter with the West Central Tribune of Willmar. Her focus areas are arts and entertainment, agriculture, features writing and the Kandiyohi County Board.

She can be reached via email slindrud@wctrib.com or direct 320-214-4373.


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