The city of Faribault is moving forward with an idea to ask for a local sales tax increase to fund a new community center.
Faribault City Council members Tuesday greenlighted a tentative four-year timeline for pursuing a community center. The location and the amenities to be included in the proposed facility have not yet been decided.
The plan calls for a citywide sales tax increase to pay for most of the facility. The tax will require approval from the Minnesota Legislature and then from the majority of the city’s residents. The timeline proposes a referendum in November 2024.
In addition to the public vote, a new center will require a number of City Council approvals in coming years. But at a workshop meeting Tuesday evening the majority of council members said they are on board with a timeline proposed by Parks and Recreation Director Paul Peanasky.
“The community center is getting fairly aged and not meeting the needs, as the community has grown quite a bit,” Peanasky said.
The current community center, located between the library and senior center on Division Street W., is 45 years old and has a pool, gym, fitness center and meeting room.
“There’s a lot of steps between now and getting to the point where you have a facility that will be open,” Peanasky said.
This fall the timeline calls for forming a task force to decide the amenities wanted in the center. This winter the city will hire a firm to assist with the planning, including selecting a site for the center. The location and amenities will be decided next spring and then budgets will be set.
Sales tax referendums can only be held during a general election, placing the soonest opportunity in November 2024. City officials did not say Tuesday what percentage increase they would seek.
To get to the ballot the tax request will need approval from the state Legislature. And that’s not a guarantee. Rice County sought state approval for a sales tax increase to fund the new public safety center, but the request got caught up in partisan gridlock.
City Administrator Tim Murray said the appeal of a sales tax increase is that it is paid not just by property owners but by all residents and visitors who shop in the city. Holding a referendum also “gives the public a say,” he said.
If the sales tax increase is approved, the timeline suggests a July 2025 groundbreaking and opening date one year later.
Councilor Tom Spooner called the timeline “aggressive” but said that is warranted because of rapidly rising construction costs.
“If you’re going to build it, might as well build it now and try to get it paid for as soon as you can,” he said.
Mayor Kevin Voracek said “I like the plan” but he was concerned the city maybe shouldn’t undertake the community center project at the same time as it is planning for an expensive new park near the viaduct.
Murray responded the projects would have different funding streams and the city is aiming to have the new park shovel-ready in 2024, well before the community center.