Study: Impact of proposed sales tax to finance Itasca Co.’s new Criminal Justice Center

If Itasca County residents approve a proposed sales and use tax in November, non-residents would pay 40% of the tax, or $30 million, to finance the cost of the new $75 million Itasca County Justice Center. This is according to a new study by the University of Minnesota’s Extension Center for Community Vitality.

This project is currently under construction in downtown Grand Rapids, and is a major renovation and expansion of the county’s jail and courthouse facilities. The new justice center will address overcrowding, improve operations, and enhance law enforcement, correctional officers, and court staff safety. The modernized justice center will include 132,000 square feet of space for the county jail and courts.

County voters will decide on November 8 whether to pay for the project with a local 1% sales tax that would be applied for a 30-year term, or until the bonds to finance the justice center are retired. If the referendum isn’t approved, Itasca County will raise property taxes about 10% to cover the project cost, which would be paid by those who own property in the county.

Itasca County says they commissioned the U of M study to determine how the sales tax would impact both residents and non-residents, to help voters determine whether they prefer a sales tax or property tax increase to pay for the justice center.

The study projects that a 1% sales and use tax would generate approximately $4 million annually, and would cost the average county resident $52.96 per year. By comparison, a 10% property tax increase would cost middle-value home owners about $90 per year.

The county began reviewing how to best address the deficiencies of the jail and courts facilities in 2018, when the Minnesota Department of Corrections (DOC) ordered Itasca County to close the old county jail, unless it could provide a facility that meets state standards.

The jail facility is on track to be operational before the May 2023 deadline set by the DOC. The Justice Center is expected to be fully operational by Fall 2023.

Residents with questions can contact Brett Skyles at