Rybak promises lower tax levies, but council wary of his stadium plan

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January 16, 2012 // UPDATED 2:05 pm - January 26, 2012
By: Nick Halter
Nick Halter
With all eyes turned on the Metrodome as a site for a new Vikings stadium, Mayor R.T. Rybak is still trying to persuade at least seven of 13 Minneapolis City Council members to vote for his financing plan, if they’re given the chance. 

Today, for the second time in two months, Rybak went before the full City Council and made his case for using existing sales taxes for a new Vikings stadium. Despite promising them that he would lower the city property tax levy annually by $5 million for the next five years and remove the Target Center off the back of Minneapolis residents, the City Council remains highly skeptical.

Prior to the meeting, at least six City Council members — Betsy Hodges Lisa Goodman, Robert Lilligren, Gary Schiff and Cam Gordon — made clear they don’t support public subsidies for a stadium. Today, Sandra Colvin Roy joined them, saying that if the council bypasses a city charter requiring a referendum to spend over $10 million on a stadium, the public would lose trust in the city.

That means, as of late January, more council members opposed Rybak’s plan than supported it.

What will the third-term mayor do now?

“We need to get the support of seven members, and I believe we can do that,” Rybak said after meeting. “It’s going to be tough.”

He said Gov. Mark Dayton has not given him a deadline for wrangling seven votes from the council.

Rybak came to the meeting with fresh numbers indicating that the city would save even more property tax money than original calculated.

The city’s ownership of the Target Center is expected to cost Minneapolis property tax players roughly $5 million a year through 2021, and between $8 million and $13 million a year from 2022 to 2041. A stadium financing plan that sends existing sales and hospitality taxes toward a Convention Center would be used to help the city pay for the Metrodome while at the same time relieving it from ownership of the Target Center.

In total, Metropolitan Sports Commission analyst Mark Kaplan said the city would save $254 million over the next 30 years.

Rybak billed the stadium deal as perhaps the only chance that Minneapolis would have to sell the Target Center. Rybak and Council President Johnson said they would not work out a deal unless it includes the transfer of the Target Center out of the city’s hands.

“I believe that when you dig into the details of this package, you will say that in this complex plan we are lowering property taxes, we are getting $1 billion in investment, (and) we are coming up with permanent funding for the Convention Center,” Rybak said.

Council members, however, said they were concerned that, in the end, they wouldn’t get a fair deal from the Legislature based on their past experiences at the Capitol.

They also said that if they bypassed the city charter, they would lose public trust.

Gordon (Ward 2) said that since the proposal has so many positives, it should go to city voters, who are wise enough to make a good decision.

“I think that what’s going to happen, if there isn’t an opportunity for the residents of Minneapolis to vote on this, like they said they wanted an opportunity to vote, they’re going to dig in their heals and they’re not going to be open-minded and they’re not going to listen to the details,” Gordon said.