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PACC expansion project a ‘go’: Perham voters approve half-cent sales tax to raise $5.2 million

An architect's rendering of what the Perham Area Community Center's exterior will likely look like after improvements and an expansion are complete. Voters on Tuesday showed their support for the project by approving a half-cent sales tax to fund it. (Image courtesy of BHH Partners in Perham)

Perham voters have shown the love for their community center.

In Tuesday’s election, they gave a big nod of approval to the Perham Area Community Center’s “Fit-Up” plans for an expansion and improvements, authorizing a local option sales tax that will raise up to $5.2 million to put toward the project.

A solid majority of voters said ‘yes’ to a special question on their ballots about the half-cent sales tax, agreeing to a new ordinance to impose the tax. The special question passed, 66.04 percent to 33.96 percent, according to results posted late Tuesday night on the Minnesota Secretary of State website.

PACC Board President Staci Malikowski said in a statement to the Focus that, “We are thrilled that the city of Perham voters support the needed improvements and betterment of the PACC.  We will remain focused on fulfilling those needs and making the PACC a destination for local and regional families.”

“We can now put our efforts into creating the final layout and developing the timeline for the project,” she added. “It's an exciting time for the PACC and our community overall!”

There are two key steps in the process of adopting a local option sales tax. Approval by city voters is the first step, and the second is special legislation authorizing the tax by the state legislature. Local voters cleared that first step with Tuesday’s vote, and state lawmakers are expected to give their approval during the 2019 legislative session.

As long as all goes well with that second step, construction at the PACC will likely begin in the fall of 2019.

In addition to the sales tax, which will cover the vast majority of the “Fit-Up” project’s total estimated cost of $5.6 million, the project will be funded with grants, sponsorships and fundraising dollars.

The tax will be collected by the Minnesota Department of Revenue along with state sales tax, and will apply to all items subject to that state tax, which does not include necessities like groceries, clothing and prescriptions. The tax will be in effect for no longer than 20 years, and can’t be used for anything other than the “Fit-Up” project at the PACC.

Proponents of the sales tax have said it’s a better alternative to the only other likely funding source for the project, a property tax hike, because it spreads the cost of the improvements out over a broader number of users who visit and shop in Perham rather than placing all the burden on people who own property within the city limits, which is a much narrower field.

So narrow, in fact, that even voters who cast their ballots at the PACC were not able to vote on the sales tax for the PACC’s improvements — an irony that election officials there Tuesday said did not escape some voters, who were peeved they didn’t get a say in it. The PACC polling site was for voters from surrounding area townships, not from within Perham city limits.

For more information about the Fit-Up plans, visit https://perhamareacommunitycenter.net/paccfitup/.

Marie Johnson

Marie Johnson joined the Detroit Lakes Tribune as a reporter and magazine editor in November 2017 after several years of writing and editing at the Perham Focus. She lives in Detroit Lakes with her husband, Dan, their 3-year-old son and baby daughter, and their yellow Lab.

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