New city sales tax to fund cops?

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January 10, 2005 // UPDATED 1:47 pm - April 26, 2007
By: Scott Russell
Scott Russell

City leaders may ask the State Legislature to allow the city to impose a new sales or parking tax to pay for more cops.

The Council's Intergovernmental Relations Committee Dec. 21 directed staff to evaluate several options to boost city public safety funds, at the urging of Council President Paul Ostrow (1st Ward).

The alternatives include:

- Using "some or all" of the existing half-percent sales tax the city now uses to pay for the Convention Center to pay for public safety.

- Creating a new half-percent sales tax, or a new parking tax or surcharge, dedicated to public safety.

- Asking the state to fully fund local government aid, which has been cut in recent years. This is considered an unlikely option given the state's own budget deficit.

Ostrow said the committee would debate the issue again Tuesday, Jan. 11.

Ostrow's resolution said state and federal funding cuts and old city debts would further erode the city's budget the next five years, dropping police services to "unacceptable" levels.

The Ostrow proposal also directed city leaders to talk to the Neighborhood Revitalization Program (NRP) Policy Board about shifting NRP spending from housing to police.

The NRP law requires neighborhoods to spend 52.5 percent of the money on housing. The program did not meet that goal in Phase I. During Phase II, therefore, neighborhoods must spend 70 percent of their money on housing.

The city could ask for a state law change that would either eliminate or reduce NRP's 52.5 percent housing spending target.

Ostrow said the NRP board would discuss the proposal Jan. 24, 4:30-6:30 p.m., C-2350, Hennepin County Government Center, 300 S. 6th St. The Intergovernmental Relations Committee would consider it the following day.

The change could give neighborhood groups an option, not a mandate, to spend more money on public safety, Ostrow said. To encourage neighborhood groups to invest their NRP money in police, the city needed to create a stable source of police funding, such as the sales tax.

Ostrow said the city needs a stable source of new funds such as the sales tax because neighborhood groups would be uncomfortable investing their NRP money in community policing if they thought it was just offsetting city cuts.

Councilmember Barret Lane (13th Ward) said he favored a local-option sales tax because it diversified city revenue, but he opposed dedicating it to one department.