ST. CLOUD — Funding referendums saw mixed success in St. Cloud and Waite Park, where voters were asked to approve new sales taxes and a tax increase.
In. St. Cloud, voters soundly approved a tax increase to fund park improvements but voted down a question to use a new half-cent sales tax to fund up to $21 million in improvements at the Municipal Athletic Complex (MAC).
The city question on park improvements passed with nearly 65% voter approval while the question on a new half-cent sales tax failed with about 47% of voters saying yes to the new tax.
"It was supposed to be temporary. I have problems with the word temporary," said St. Cloud resident Ron Schreifels, 72, who said he voted against the sales tax increase because it would be in addition to the other half-cent sales tax already collected in St. Cloud.
That tax was first approved by voters in 2003. In 2014, it was extended to 2038, with proceeds helping pay for the St. Cloud Area Family YMCA, as well as projects at St. Cloud Regional Airport and on regional trails.
The proposed sales tax that was voted down would have ended when the project — which included renovation of the MAC's ice arenas and installation of new turf on the ballfields — was complete. The city received $10 million from the Legislature's 2020 bonding bill to make improvements at the regional sports facility, and the sales tax proceeds, if approved, would have funded the city's share of the project.
"The purpose of a society is to help all of us enjoy and survive," said John Malcolm, 68, of St. Cloud, who supported both funding questions. "Open spaces and taking care of infrastructure are necessary to not only a pleasant but a free society."
The approved tax increase for parks allows the city to spend $20 million in the next three years to improve area parks and trails. The money will be collected over 20 years.
"I think we could use some sprucing up with some of our parks. That pool's been out of commission for at least a year and a half now," said St. Cloud voter Gabriel Helgeson, 19, while pointing at Spalt Park's wading pool, which was shut down during the pandemic and hasn't reopened.
Waite Park voters approve public safety facility sales tax
In Waite Park, voters approved a question authorizing the city to collect a new half-cent sales tax to fund up to $20 million for a new public safety facility but voted down a new sales tax for regional trail connections.
The question regarding the public safety facility passed with about 54% voter approval.
The question authorizing the city to collect up to $7.5 million for regional trail improvements failed by only 34 votes, according to unofficial results reported by the Minnesota Secretary of State website. In that question, 50.8% of voters said no while 49.2% said yes.
Totals are unofficial until local elected bodies canvas the votes this week.