Time to fund projects may be at hand

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 17, 2001

Destination Albert Lea seems to have more than just a few good ideas.

Wednesday, October 17, 2001

Destination Albert Lea seems to have more than just a few good ideas.

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A number of organizations and committees have studied Albert Lea’s problems over the last 25 years. Many have made some good recommendations that eventually went unheeded for lack of money.

The members of Destination Albert Lea have figured out that their goals will also go unrealized without the much-needed cash to make them happen. And grants are not going to do the trick. It’s difficult to sustain the momentum of any organization while waiting a decade for a couple of $1,000 grants to trickle in.

The organization has decided to begin a drive to institute a local option sales tax, and we welcome the discussion. This may be the right time for Albert Lea to revisit the issue.

The first test comes Monday at the Albert Lea city council meeting. Destination Albert Lea members will propose the tax that would pump at least $2.1 million into lake restoration and downtown revitalization projects in just one year. But the council must back the idea for it to have a chance.

Citizens need not worry. No local option sales tax can take effect without the approval of voters. If all goes well for Destination Albert Lea – and it’s important to note that this idea is still in its early infancy – the question would appear on the November 2002 ballot, along with three city council seats and a mayorship.

Two things to consider as the debate begins: First is the fact that much of the revenue, about one third on average, would come from visitors. Second, finding case studies of other communities that have used a similar tax is easy. These communities – Mankato, Rochester, Mason City, Winona – are all around us. Our Iowa neighbors are also using a similar county-wide tax. Local sales taxes can be very helpful to communities with expensive problems like dirty lakes and fading downtowns.

And it appears Albert Lea has at least one group willing to promote the idea.