Bloomington Council Seeks State Funds, Local Tax for New Gym

Bloomington_City_Hall.jpgBloomington presented its Council Members' legislative priorities on January 17 in a Zoom call with state legislators in Senate Districts 49 and 50 as well as local representatives on the Hennepin County Board and the Metropolitan Council.

First on the agenda was the capital improvements Bloomington is seeking to get approved this year. The City is pursuing a two-prong approach to get funding approved for four projects. Legislative approval of a Local Option Sales Tax is one of the prongs. The other prong would involve state support in the 2022 bonding bill.

Bloomington City staff estimate that $11M would be required annually for 20 years to provide the $220M needed, including interest and finance costs. To raise this money, Bloomington will ask the legislature to approve the imposition across the City of a half-cent sales tax.

Like the sales tax approved by the legislature for the Vikings stadium, Mayor Busse did not mention if the tax would be imposed for only 20 years.

The projects and their estimated capital costs are:
• Bloomington Ice Garden improvements ($32M)
• Bloomington Center for the Arts ($33M)
• Dwan Golf Course ($15M)
• Community Health & Wellness Center ($70M)

In her remarks later, MN Senator (and MN Senate Minority Leader) Melisa Lopez-Franzen recommended that Bloomington ask for more than $220M because of inflation.

The "Community Health & Wellness Center " (a "gym" in short-version English) is clearly the largest project in the City’s wish list. Given the size of its request, this Center may well be the reincarnation of the Bloomington Community Center that was proposed and then dropped a couple of years ago. In this Zoom meeting, it was described as providing recreation, fitness, and educational opportunities. One of the reasons given in its support was that it's needed to address racism as a public health crisis.

Mayor Busse also asked that the language governing the South Loop Special Use Taxes be “cleaned up” to allow funding “for projects that drive economic development and hospitality demand”. No further details were provided on those projects.

The mayor stated that there were “positive developments” regarding efforts to win the approval of the Bureau of International Exhibitions to stage EXPO 2027 in Bloomington. It would be a Specialized EXPO, inspired by the UN Sustainability goals. The organizing committee is up and running, adding staff and ramping up fundraising. Busse mentioned that work to stage an EXPO in Bloomington has been supported by three Presidents, including Donald Trump. Congressman Tom Emmer has signed a letter of support.

Mayor Busse went on to express support for state and federal efforts to upgrade Highway 494 from Highway 169 to the airport. He also requested an increase in the board of the Bloomington Housing and Redevelopment Authority from 5 to 7 members.

This Zoom meeting was open to the public in a listen-only mode.