NEW ULM - In 2013 the half-percent sales tax in New Ulm generated $1,283,483 for the city and set a record for the amount collected in a year.
City Finance Director Reg Vorwerk presented that information to the Park and Rec Commission at its Monday meeting. Vorwerk reported on funds collected to cover the Park and Rec capital bonds. The amount of city sales tax received in 2013 was a record high and was nearly double the amount needed to cover 2014 debt service.
Although this past year was a record year for sales tax, Vorwerk could not say if the trend would continue in 2014. However, January also had record high collections.
The half percent sales tax that New Ulm has collected since 2000 was created to pay off bond debt for the recreational capital improvement projects. The projects included constructing the Civic Center, tripling the size of the Community Center, and retrofitting Vogel Ice Arena into a field house. Extra revenue generated above the debt payment can only be used for repairs to these original projects. Vorwerk estimated that roof repairs on these facilities will be needed by 2018.
Commission Chair Toby Freier said that a decision would need to be made regarding early retirement of the bond or continuing to put accrual funds in a depreciation account. Either way, Freier said this was a "good problem to have."
Park and Rec Director Tom Schmitz recommended the repair-and-replace fund be built up because there will be infrastructure work with department facilities in the near future.The repair-and-replacement account currently contains $2.6 million.
"Once that repair and replacement money is gone, those expenses may end up falling on property taxes," Schmitz said.
The debt on the bond is scheduled to be paid off in 2020.
The Commission accepted $7,818.64 in donations for the development of the dog park. The donations came from a combination of individual contributions and fundraisers. The funds will finance the construction of a perimeter fence around the park.
Schmitz said the fence could be in place within four to eight weeks.
Lisa Langer, a member of the Dog Park Committee, estimated that after a year and a half of fundraising $14,700 has been collected.
"The support from the community has been excellent," said Langer. The committee is continuing to seek funds to create further improvements for the park.
The Commission approved a recommendation for the City Council to authorize a Kickstarter campaign for the Dog Park. The goal will be to raise $2,500 in 60 days. Individuals could visit Kickstarter.com to donate funds. If the campaign does not receive enough donations in 60 days, no money exchange will occur. A minimum fee of $125 is required, plus an additional 5 percent of the amount raised if the $2,500 goal is met. The Kickstarter campaign allows people all over to world to donate and would not cost the City additional funds, Langer said.
The Commission reviewed a 1988 Park and Rec survey in preparation in conducting a new survey.
The 1988 survey was done in preparation for releasing an updated Master Plan in 1989.
Schmitz said that Park and Rec needed a new plan.
"A lot has changed in New Ulm and the world since the late '80s, " Schmitz said. A new survey could lead to an update in the community Master Plan.
Commission Kara Carlson said she supported establishing a guide to public opinion on how to move forward with City planning.
Freier suggested an online survey to reduce costs or include the survey with utility bills to lower mailing costs.
Schmitz said that any Master Plan update would not likely be done until 2015, but he suggested continuing the review of the 1988 survey and consider potential questions for a new survey.
The Commission passed a motion to proceed with the development a Park and Rec Survey update sometime in 2014.