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Rochester, MN (KROC AM News) - Besides voting for president, local and state offices in November, Rochester voters may have to make one more decision - raising their taxes to pay for city parks.

The city Parks and Recreation Department is seeking approval from the City Council to place a question on the ballot that would create a new property tax levy.

 

The maximum amount of the levy as a percentage of market value is 0.0168 percent. It’s estimated this would add $33 to the annual property tax bill of the average homeowner. The department says the maximum amount the levy would raise the first year is $2-million.

The department says it has been searching for new ways to cover the expenses of maintaining the existing park and recreation system and new projects as its annual budgets are inadequate.

The department says a recent survey of 300 Rochester voters found a majority would support the new levy. The request is scheduled to be taken up by the City Council Monday.

Here is some of the information submitted to the council for its review:

The department developed a system-wide master plan in 2015-2016. The planning was driven by community input. The Parks and Recreation System Plan addresses aging infrastructure and identifies park and recreation amenities needed to meet the demands of a healthy and active community. In recent years Parks and Recreation Department funding has been sufficient to address core safety, program and maintenance activities. Limited funding has been available to address park improvements needed throughout the system. Rochester’s parks, trails and recreation facilities are active throughout the year. Residents have grown in their appreciation of the park system during the past several months of the pandemic. Suggestions and concerns have been shared with stakeholders as demands on the parks and recreation system have increased.

The proposed funding initiative will provide opportunity to improve the existing system, increase conservation efforts, provide greater access, and deliver highly anticipated park amenities. Based upon feasibility research and a public opinion survey of Rochester voters, The Trust for Public Land recommends that the Rochester City Council place a park and conservation finance ballot measure on the November 3, 2020 general election ballot with the following provisions.  

To assist the City in determining the community’s willingness to support further investment in the parks and conservation, in July 2020, The Trust for Public Land commissioned a public opinion survey of 300 likely November 2020 Rochester voters. The survey tested voter attitudes towards parks and conservation property tax levy. A majority of Rochester voters would support a $2 million parks and conservation property tax levy to protect natural areas, maintain, operate, and improve existing parks and acquire new parks. When informed that the property tax increase would cost the average homeowner in Rochester an additional $33 per year, support increases. The $2 million levy bond could pass in November if a strong and effective education and outreach campaign can be undertaken to inform voters of program’s benefits and structure

CITY QUESTION: WATER AND AIR QUALITY, NATURAL AREAS, AND PARK IMPROVEMENT LEVY:

Shall the City of Rochester, Minnesota, be authorized to levy property taxes in the amount of $2,000,000 to provide a dedicated source of funding to protect water quality and natural areas; conserve trees and wooded areas that help to protect air quality; improve access to existing parks and recreational facilities for kids and people with disabilities; improve park safety; and maintain, operate, and improve existing parks? There will be full public disclosure of how the funds are spent. Funds raised by the City could be matched by funds from the state and federal government and private sources.

BY VOTING “YES” ON THIS BALLOT QUESTION, YOU ARE VOTING FOR A PROPERTY TAX INCREASE.

The council will consider the request at ita Monday meeting.

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