Tax hikes proposed to fund Northland projects

Ryan Juntti
Updated: March 03, 2021 10:39 PM
Created: March 03, 2021 09:06 PM

Minnesota lawmakers are considering sales tax hikes to fund several Northland projects.

Lawmakers are proposing the sales tax hikes to fund projects in Itasca County, and the cities of Grand Rapids and Cloquet.

One of the projects is the Itasca County Jail.

Come September, the current Itasca County Jail will no longer be able to be used. That's because in 2018, the state told the county the jail is out of compliance.

A bill in the Minnesota House would raise $75 million to fund the building of a new one with a one-percent sales tax.

"We've grown out of our old jail, and in many instances had to house prisoners to other counties," Itasca County Commissioner Terry Snyder said in a House Committee hearing on Wednesday.

Snyder says on average, they have 37 of their inmates in other counties.

Therefore, he says building a new jail will help with overcrowding in other facilities.

"Not only are we helping our partners and our neighbors regionally, and alleviating the potential problem they may have in overcrowding, but it also creates a revenue source," said Snyder.

In the City of Grand Rapids, a one-half percent sales tax is being proposed to help pay for about $6 million in upgrades to the Grand Rapids IRA Civic Center.

"The IRA Civic Center really serves as a regional facility," said Grand Rapids City Administrator Tom Pagel. 

"The facility is a county wide emergency shelter, and it also serves as the evacuation facility for the nearby high school," said Grand Rapids City Council member Rick Blake.

In Cloquet, just over $8 million would be raised with a half-percent sales tax to help fund restorations to Pine Valley Regional Park, and Cloquet Ice Arena.

"Funding for these projects cannot come from local property taxes as the burden would be too great," said Cloquet City Council member Kerry Kolodge.

Therefore, Kolodge is hoping the sales tax is approved.

"Each of these projects provides substantial, regional support and impact to northern Minnesota," said Kolodge. "It is hard to overstate the value these facilities bring to our residents, and those who visit Cloquet from outside the area," he said.

The Itasca County proposals would require a voter referendum to take effect, but the Cloquet one would not.    

In Hermantown, a half-percent sales tax is being proposed to raise $28 million for a second ice sheet at the Hermantown Hockey Arena; improvements and upgrades to Fichtner Park; and construction of the Hermantown-Proctor trail.

In Floodwood, a half-percent sales tax is being proposed to raise $1.25 million for a citywide street and infrastructure project.

Both of those bills will be discussed Thursday.


Ryan Juntti

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