Half-cent tax on ballot
Come November, the Detroit Lakes City Council will be asking residents to vote on a food and beverage tax. The city council voted 7-1 to approve getting language ready to approve at the August council meeting that will be sent to the county and p...
Come November, the Detroit Lakes City Council will be asking residents to vote on a food and beverage tax.
The city council voted 7-1 to approve getting language ready to approve at the August council meeting that will be sent to the county and put on the November ballot.
Now the council has to decide on the details of the tax proposal.
"In my long tenure as mayor, I've never passed a food and beverage tax. I'm kind of a rookie here so help me out," Mayor Matt Brenk, who took over the post in January, said jokingly as to what needs to be done.
The city asked legislators to approve a half cent food and beverage tax, and as a compromise with the governor, legislators approved up to a 1 percent tax, but the tax proposal must be voted on by the public, which wouldn't have been the case in the past. Previous to this year, cities would just get approval from the Legislature to levy the tax -- no voter consent necessary.
Now the council needs to decide how much of a percentage it wants to ask for, and if the list of items the money will go toward should be narrowed from the four already outlined -- flowering rush control on the city beach, bike trails, crescent redevelopment area and parking improvements.
"You've got to concentrate on one or two" of the topics, Alderman Bruce Imholte said. He added that if the council has to sell the public on having this tax for parking improvements, there's no way it will pass.
"Parking seemed like a logical thing to incorporate" with all of the other proposed ideas, City Administrator Bob Louiseau said.
The tax would raise about $110,000 annually for the city if it were set at half a percent, and $220,000 for a full percent. City Finance Officer Lou Guzek suggested doing like was done for the Legacy tax where a percentage was spelled out to show voters what the money was going toward.
Alderman GL Tucker disagreed, saying that being more vague might be an advantage for the city.
Louiseau also said determining specific percentages for specific projects would limit the city's ability to fluctuate the funds as needed.
"If you're going to do it, do it right the first time," Imholte said, because if the city has to go back and ask a second time, it won't pass.
In fact, Imholte said he'd like to skip the food and beverage tax and ask for an overall sales tax, which the city could ask for now that the state moratorium on that has run out.
Louiseau said that can still be done on the November ballot also, and then the city would have to ask legislators to approve it after the voters had voted in favor of it.
Imholte said an overall tax would be fair because it would be on all money spent in Detroit Lakes, not just at food and beverage establishments.
Brenk said he'd like to ask for the food and beverage tax now and then be able to tell people next year how the money has helped solve city problems and then ask for the overall tax. Imholte said both would not pass.
With Imholte casting the lone dissenting vote, the council approved moving forward with the food and beverage tax on November's ballot. Verbiage will be voted on at the August meeting.