Mayor Kim Norton vetoes City Council decision for voters to decide on city sales tax extension

(ABC 6 News) – The Rochester City Council voted 6 to 1 Monday night to send an extension of the city’s sales tax to voters this fall, but Mayor Kim Norton vetoed that plan Tuesday afternoon.

Norton was in favor of three of the four items that would be funded by an extension of the sales tax. The one she felt needed more details before settling on a dollar amount was a proposed regional sports complex that is in early planning stages in Rochester.

All members of the city council agreed $140 million that could be allocated from sales tax to three projects including regional development, street reconstruction and flood control would all be good for the city.

Mayor Norton was hesitant to attach a proposed $65 million for a regional sports complex that still doesn’t have a finalized location in the city. She described it as more of a want by some citizens rather than a need for the city.

“The local options sales tax is a wonderful opportunity for this community,” said Norton. “I am not against that. I just hoped we would allow the community to decide which of the four or all of the four were of interests to them. And to give them the choice to select.”

Council member Patrick Keane voted in favor of the sales tax extension going to voters. He says all these projects could benefit more from sales tax revenue instead of putting the burden on taxpayers as other projects have benefited from previous sales tax votes before.

“Part of my logic comes from I do want to see the sales tax continue,” said Keane. “It’s a good way for Rochester to fund things like flood control, like a regional sports complex. Frankly our history has a lot of this sort of stuff.”

The history of the sales tax going toward city projects goes back as far as the early 1980s. Deputy city administrator Aaron Parrish said the city is still receiving money for projects in the last extension, which was approved at the ballot box in 2012.

“The last sales tax or the sales tax we’re currently in and collecting funding on we had a number of important road projects that were funded,” Parrish said. “125 Live and the senior center was funded as well as improvements to the rec center and a number of improvements were made to higher education at that time with UMR as well as RCTC.”

Even with the decision vetoed, the council could override the decision during the next council meeting on July 24. Norton anticipates if that is the case, the sales tax extension for these projects will still pass.

“I think it will look exactly like what’s coming out of the meeting. My sense has been that the city council does not want to waiver on what the council has already supported,” Norton said.

Also on July 24, the city council is expected to review a presentation of the proposed regional sports complex during their study session at 3:30 PM.