Sales tax hearing last stadium hurdle

Sales tax hearing last stadium hurdle

MINNEAPOLIS -- There's one final hurdle for the new Twins ballpark.

A Hennepin County sales tax, which will help finance the downtown Minneapolis open-air ballpark, will be discussed in public forums in a little over a week before the Hennepin County Board votes on imposing the tax. The 0.15 percent sales tax (three cents on a $20 purchase) excludes clothing, food, medical supplies and automobiles.

Three public hearings are scheduled for Aug. 22-24, and the board's final vote on the sales tax is slated for Aug. 29.

Hennepin County Commissioner Mike Opat said he doesn't foresee any holdups with the vote in just over two weeks, noting a strong 4-3 majority on the county board.

"I think the opponents are strong opponents and the supporters are strong supporters," Opat said. "We're getting excited about getting started with the project and getting people excited for outdoor baseball."

The county's share of financing the ballpark is $350 million for construction and infrastructure costs, while the Twins will contribute $130 million. The club will also pay $1 million a year for ballpark improvements and $250,000 a year in contributions to amateur sports.

Opat said he wasn't sure how to gauge the turnout for the public hearings since there have already been many opportunities for residents to voice their opinions. Plus, the county board's strong majority support for the new ballpark doesn't offer much to change.

"I think in a lot of cases, people have had their chance to weigh in," Opat said.

After the hearings are held, the Hennepin County Board will vote on authorizing the sales tax. If approved, the 0.15 percent tax would go into effect on Jan. 1, 2007. The county plans to issue tax-exempt revenue bonds in 2007, payable with revenues from the sales tax increase.

The Twins-Hennepin County bill was signed by Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty in May. The legislation does not require a referendum in connection with the county sales-tax increase.

Here's a list of the public hearings scheduled for later this month:

Aug. 22, 5-7 p.m.
Board Room, 24th Floor, Hennepin County Government Center, 300 S. 6th St., Minneapolis

Aug. 23, 6-8 p.m.
Council Chambers, Bloomington Civic Plaza, 1800 W. Old Shakopee Road

Aug. 24, 6-8 p.m.
Council Chambers, Maple Grove Government Center, 12800 Arbor Lakes Parkway

Residents interested in testifying at the hearings should call the County Board Clerk's Office at 612-348-3081 or e-mail the clerk. Persons who would like to testify but are unable to attend a hearing also may e-mail their comments to the clerk.

Jason Brummond is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.