Q & A: sales tax referendum

Here are some questions answered by Gary Neumann:

What is the breakdown for the $30 million in City transportation funds? To be specific, which roads and how much for each and what will happen for the Airport and how much will go for that?

The legislation includes a list of transportation projects.  As was the case in 2005 the cost of the projects on the list is greater than the funding.  Some of the roadway projects may be able to secure State or Federal funding which would allow the funding to stretch further so that more of the projects can be completed. Federal and state funding will be needed and sought for the Airport projects. Federal and State grant funding opportunities are always being sought to reduce the local costs where we are eligible for such funding.  An example to illustrate this is that the City received word in October that we have received approval of a federal grant of $7 million for the transit operations bus facility that is listed below.  As a result that project will not need funding from the $30 million for City transportation projects in the 2012 sales tax extension.

The Mayor and Council will have the authority and responsibility to appropriate the funding among the transportation projects to do the best job they can with this funding for the City.  This same approach was utilized in the 2005 sales tax extension list of projects.  If you want a list of the transportation projects that the City funded with sales tax from the 1998 and 2005 sales tax let me know and I will provide it.

The projects listed in the Legislation for the 2012 extension were:

  • Trunk Highway 52 and 65th St. Interchange
  • NW Transportation Corridor Preservation
  • Phase I of Trunk Highway 52 and County State Aid Highway 22 Interchange
  • Trunk Highway 14 and Trunk Highway 63 Intersection
  • Southeast Transportation Corridor acquisition
  • Rochester International Airport Expansion
  • A transit operations bus facility

What is the breakdown for the $17 million in County Transportation funds?  Will the County get the funding in one lump sum? If not who will decide what road projects will be funded? 

The legislation includes a list of projects for the County roads. The County Board will appropriate the $17 million among the projects.  They have the authority with regards to this $17 million, not the City.  As was the case with the previous $16 million in sales tax transportation funds that the County received from the City from the 2005 sales tax, the County and City will work out a schedule for the payment of the funding.  The City needs to look at the cash flow from the sales tax and the schedules for many projects to plan for bond issues.  The County then requests the funding for each specific project pursuant to the schedule on a project by project basis.   We have prior experience in working with the County on this process from the 2005 extension and it has worked well.

The projects listed in the 2012 Legislation for County roadway funding were as follows:

  • County State Highway 34 Reconstruction (2nd Street SW)
  • Trunk Highway 63 and County State Aid Highway 16 Interchange (Airport) Interchange
  • Phase II of the Trunk Highway 52 and County State Aid Highway 22 Interchange
  • Widening of County State Aid Highway 22 West Circle Drive
  • 60th Ave. Northwest Corridor Preservation

What improvements will be made at the Recreation Center?  What is the breakdown between the Senior Center and the Rec. Center?

There is $20 million allocated to the regional recreation community and senior center.  The preliminary estimate for the Senior Center Addition has been $12 million.  The additional $8 million is planned for a list of potential improvements to the swimming and skating areas.  The Mayor and Council will be the final authority on the breakdown in the funding.  The Senior Citizens Organization and the Park and Recreation Department will be working cooperatively on this project as they been for the prior planning stages.

What will the $14 million for University of Minnesota Rochester be spent on?

There is $14 million allocated to be used to construct additional facilities for the University of Minnesota Rochester (UMR).  The plan concept that has been discussed is to use an estimated $10 million of the funding to leverage an additional $50 million in other funds, including State funds, to construct a $60 million Core Academic Building for the UMR on their campus site on First Avenue South.  The remaining $4 million is planned for additional support facilities for the growth of the UMR facilities in Rochester.

How much have we already spent on the RCTC stadium to date?

Sales tax funding of $3.6 million was previously authorized by the City for RCTC for the regional stadium.  In addition the City provided RCTC with a loan of $1.24 million for the dome project.  The RCTC Foundation has paid back $355,000 of that loan for the dome, leaving a loan principal balance of $885,000

Is there a plan for the Destination Medical Community Initiative? Can I get a copy? Who will decide how it is spent?

The Destination Medical Community (DMC) Initiative is an economic development initiative, the primary goal of which is to maintain and enhance Rochester Minnesota’s status as a Destination Medical Community now and in the future.  The concept plan for the DMC was provided to the Sales Tax Advisory Committee in 2010.  I have included a copy of the concept plan for you.  A detailed research and planning effort is currently underway (not with City funds) and involves a coalition of business and community representatives to develop a more specific and detailed Strategic Plan for the DMC.  It is anticipated that this Strategic Plan will be completed in the second quarter of 2012.

Appropriations of funding for the Destination Medical Community Initiative will require either annual budget approvals by the Mayor and City Council or project by project funding similar to how sales tax funding has been utilized for Higher Education. The exact approach will be determined by the Mayor and Council.  The approach that the City utilized with regards to the previous $28 million in Higher Education sales tax funding to the UMR and RCTC might be illustrative.  For the previous Higher Education projects that have been funded with sales tax dollars specific requests for each individual project were submitted to the Mayor and Council by RCTC and the UMR.  The Mayor and Council then considered those individual project requests and either approved, denied, amended or modified those requests.

Who will decide how the $10 million for economic development will be spent?

For the $5 million that is allocated by the legislation for City of Rochester projects, the City will work with RAEDI on specific appropriations of funds for individual project requests or for annual budgeted appropriations.  The Mayor and Council have the final authority for this funding, but the City will be working very closely with RAEDI, who will be working on, reviewing, and recommending projects to the City.  We have worked with RAEDI on many economic development projects over the years.

For the $5 million allocated by the Legislature to surrounding communities for economic development projects, the City will be working in consultation with those communities on the exact process for accessing the funding.  It is not established at this time.  Those communities will decide on the specific projects that would use the funds, within the requirements that their use of the funds needs to be consistent with State law relating to economic development projects and the specifics of the legislation.

How much is being spent on bike trails including bridges, signage and and creation of complete streets with bike lanes? 

There is no funding identified specifically for bike trails or complete streets projects.  There were 5 stand-alone pedestrian/bike trail projects that were submitted by the Rochester Public Works Department for sales tax consideration to the Sales Tax Advisory Committee.  None of those are in the final list of projects in the legislation.

The City has an adopted policy relating to complete street designs. The policy requires that prior to the reconstruction or new construction of any city street the application of the complete streets policy shall be considered.  At this time it is unknown if any of the streets mentioned in the list provided above would or would not involve complete street bike lanes as an ancillary part of the new roadway project.  Some of those road improvement projects may include a complete street design just as street designs include sidewalks curbs, utilities, and sometimes an adjacent bike path.  Those are design issues that apply to every roadway project. However, there are no stand-alone bike path projects on the state legislation list.

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