The City of Bloomington is a popular destination to live, work, shop, play and raise a family. As our city grows and evolves, Bloomington needs to continue making investments in community amenities that bring residents together and enhance their quality of life. After more than two years of gathering input from residents, the City of Bloomington developed a long-term investment plan, called Bloomington Forward, that would support three major community projects for better health, wellness, athletics, recreation and improved natural areas.
On Tuesday, November 7, Bloomington voters will consider a half-percent local option sales tax to finance $155 million in bonds to pay for the projects as part of a citywide referendum. Because this is an important community decision, a website, bloomingtonforward.org, was created to provide Bloomington residents details and resources about the projects to make an informed vote on or before November 7.
Guided by feedback from residents, the City has put forward a $159 million investment plan to build a new community health and wellness center, support major renovations at Bloomington Ice Garden, and provide new amenities and habitat restoration along the Nine Mile Creek Corridor. The City will ask residents to consider a half-percent local option sales tax to finance the Bloomington Forward plan with a separate ballot question for each of the three projects. If approved, the sales tax would generate up to $155 million dollars for the three investment projects over a 20-year period. The remaining four million dollars for the projects would be provided by the State of Minnesota.
The plan focuses on three major community projects that support health, wellness, athletics and recreation:
Build a new community health and wellness center
The single building would replace the outdated Bloomington Public Health and Creekside Community Center buildings. Potential amenities planned include: gymnasiums, an indoor walking/jogging track, indoor playground, supervised child play area, exercise spaces and fitness studios, multi-purpose rooms for community events, spaces to support senior programming, a pool with family locker rooms, public health programming, exam and counseling rooms, a lobby and reception area, and Public Health and Parks and Recreation offices.
Due to age, the Public Health and Creekside Community Center buildings are no longer functional. Both facilities are more than 60 years old. Estimated renovation costs exceed the cost to build new.
Why it matters
A new community health and wellness center would feature three times as much space as the current Creekside and Public Health buildings.
Cost: $101.8 million
Renovate the 50-year-old Bloomington Ice Garden
Bloomington Ice Garden (BIG) needs new refrigeration and mechanical systems, improved accessibility, a new roof and more to improve guest experience.
The BIG building is in need of major upgrades. Along with aging mechanical systems, the ice rinks use R-22 refrigerant, which is being phased out due to its ozone-depleting properties. Currently, to remain operational BIG must use recovered, recycled or reclaimed R-22, which is increasingly expensive and harder to get.
Why it matters
Bloomington Ice Garden is a destination for hockey and skating enthusiasts and draws many visitors to the city. The proposed upgrades will improve accessibility, bring the facility up to current building standards and enhance guest experiences.
Cost: $37.2 million
Enhance and protect the Nine Mile Creek corridor and Moir/Central Park
This project would improve trails, restore riverbanks, protect habitats and add new park amenities to support outdoor recreation. Planned improvements include 12,000 feet of stream restoration, 131 acres of woodland and wetland restoration, invasive species prevention, new outdoor gathering space with restrooms, new playground and shelter building, ADA accessibility improvements, trail widening, a new boardwalk connecting to Moir/Central Park, seven new trail bridges within Central Park and 12,400 feet of new trails.
To ensure the Nine Mile Creek corridor and Moir/Central Park continue to connect residents to nature and outdoor activities, eroded riverbanks need to be restored, natural habitats must be protected, and parks and trails should be improved for expanded for hiking and biking opportunities.
Why it matters
The Nine Mile Creek corridor is a popular destination for residents and visitors alike. It also includes several acres of “remnant prairie” that predate human settlement and require careful upkeep to maintain their health.
Cost: $20 million
In May 2023, Bloomington received legislative authorization to present voters with a referendum to fund the investments included in the Bloomington Forward plan via a half-percent local sales tax. If the sales tax is approved, an estimated 67% of the tax will be paid by nonresidents, according to research by the University of Minnesota. That means nonresidents will contribute an estimated $104 million toward the projects. The local option sales tax has the same exemptions for purchases as the state sales tax, including groceries, clothing, prescription and over-the-counter drugs, feminine hygiene products and baby products. In comparison, if the project was paid for with property tax revenue, the cost burden would fall on Bloomington residents and property owners in the city.
Why fund with a sales tax and not a property tax?
When cities need to invest in their facilities, they generally have two options to raise the funds: a sales tax or a property tax. In May 2023, Bloomington received legislative authorization to present voters with a referendum to fund Bloomington Forward investments through a half-percent local sales tax. Here is how the sales tax compares to the property tax alternative.
Ballot question: What the vote means
If one, two, or all three questions are approved by the voters, the City is only authorized to impose a half cent (0.5%) sales tax increase for a maximum of 20 years or until enough sales tax revenue has been raised to pay for the costs of the voter-approved projects.