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Two central Minnesota cities will ask voters this fall to approve new funding sources for a handful of proposed projects.

The St. Cloud City Council on Monday approved adding two referendums to the November ballot. The first question will ask residents to authorize the city to collect a half-cent sales tax for up to five years to fund up to $21 million in improvements at the Municipal Athletic Complex. The second question asks for a property tax increase so the city can spend $20 million in the next three years to improve area parks and trails.

The Waite Park City Council on Monday also approved two ballot questions authorizing the city to collect new half-cent sales taxes to fund up to $20 million for a new public safety facility and up to $7.5 million for regional trail connections.

The St. Cloud question on park improvements allows the city to bond for the money over 20 years but make the improvements in the next few years.

"If you focus on your core priorities, which are public safety and infrastructure, often parks get left behind," Mayor Dave Kleis said Monday.

Although the city's park and recreation budget is proposed to increase slightly next year, the funding isn't enough to keep up with maintenance of the city's 98 regional and neighborhood parks. The new funding could pay for improvements such as new splash pads or the conversion of unused tennis courts to pickleball courts, Kleis said.

The proposed MAC improvements include renovating the ice areas, installing synthetic turf at the baseball fields and rebuilding the parking lot. The city received $10 million from the Legislature's 2020 bonding bill to make improvements at the regional sports facility. The sales tax proceeds, if approved, would fund the city's share of the project.

If Waite Park's ballot questions are approved, the city could purchase land and construct a new public safety facility, as well as fund trail connections between the city's existing trails, the Lake Wobegon Trail and the Glacial Lakes Trail.

"Both questions stand on their own, which means one or none or both could be approved," said Shaunna Johnson, Waite Park city administrator.

The city's public safety employees need more space, Mayor Rick Miller said Monday.

"When this building was built, we had less than 10 people total in the police department. We now have about 30," he said, referring to City Hall, which houses the police department.

Both Miller and Johnson said they prefer to fund the projects using sales tax, about 80% of which is generated by nonresidents. Otherwise the improvements would be funded by property taxes.

"This costs the average citizen of Waite Park about 5 bucks a year in extra sales tax," Miller said. "If we put it on [their property] taxes, I don't even want to know what that would add up to [over] 19 years."