Savage sports facility: $4 million. Woodbury sports center: $16 million. Eden Prairie aquatic center: $21 million. Cities spending millions of tax dollars on amenities without voter approval: Priceless.
Cities are increasingly using tax abatement bonds to fund amenities like pools and sports centers, in part to avoid referendums. In response, the Legislature passed state statute 475.521 outlining a “reverse referendum” process. Citing this statute, hundreds of Eden Prairie residents signed a petition requesting a referendum on the proposed aquatics center. However, the city claimed the statute did not apply to this project and spent $21 million without a referendum.
Is voter approval a thing of the past? Should cities be able to spend millions on optional amenities beyond providing and maintaining critical infrastructure? Will residents no longer be allowed to prioritize discretionary spending?
Each dollar can only be spent once. The Eden Prairie City Council has decided that an aquatic center is the most important investment for the community. Residents may or may not agree, but they will never have an opportunity to find out.
Dan Kitrell, Eden Prairie