IE 11 Not Supported

For optimal browsing, we recommend Chrome, Firefox or Safari browsers.

Rochester, N.Y., Launches Website to Build Support for Sales Tax

The proposed extension of a half-cent sales tax that would generate $205 million prompted city officials to launch a website to showcase the various projects the tax would fund, including workforce development, street maintenance and more.

(TNS) — The city of Rochester has launched a new website — — to help inform residents about the proposal to extend the city's local, half-cent sales tax.

The renewal would generate $205 million for public investments in housing, workforce development, street repairs, flood control and a regional sports complex.

The referendum website provides information about long-term challenges the city faces and how the investment plan would address them.

"The website was created to provide residents direct access to the information they need to make an informed vote," Rochester City Administrator Alison Zelms said in a statement announcing the site's launch. "We encourage folks to check out the site, which includes a robust frequently asked questions section. There is detailed information about the four sales tax renewal projects."

Cities are not allowed to campaign for referendums, but they are allowed to educate the public on the proposal and how funds are expected to be spent.

As part of the Nov. 7, 2023, election, Rochester voters will consider a single question on whether to renew the existing local half-cent sales tax to support four major projects:

  • Economic vitality fund ($50 million): Investments will go toward addressing the profound shortages of middle- and low-income housing, preserving existing affordable housing options in our neighborhoods, and developing workforce programs that will help create more job opportunities for residents.
  • Flood control and water quality ($50 million): The proposed initiative addresses sediment removal to protect water quality, reinvestment in and enhancement of floodwalls, and riverbank stabilization measures, among other improvements to expand the system's capacity.
  • Street repairs ($40 million): The street reconstruction project will repair or rebuild the aging roadway stretches that are most in need of repair, transforming them into safer and more efficient routes for travel.
  • Regional sports complex ($65 million): The complex would address the growing demand for indoor and outdoor multi-purpose fields and courts, providing the recreational spaces that our residents' desire and strengthening the city's sports tourism market by attracting more state and local amateur sports events.

Rochester residents originally authorized a local option sales tax in 1983 and have renewed it three times, most recently in 2012.

During the past 40 years, the sales tax has supported a wide range of public investments — from senior living and educational facilities to flood control and public safety investments. Since 2000, the city's population has grown 36%, which has created a need for further public investments in infrastructure and services.

"We continue to see the need to expand and reinvest in our City's services, community programs and infrastructure to support the quality of life our residents deserve and expect," Zelms said.

If the referendum is approved, the sales tax would extend for a 24-year period or until the funding obligations have been met.

According to research by the University of Minnesota, 43% of the sales tax is expected to be collected from nonresidents, which means approximately $88 million of the cost of the investments would be paid by those who visit Rochester and purchase goods and services within the city limits. For Rochester residents, city staff reports the average cost of local sales tax is expected to continue to be $55.66 per resident per year.

©2023 the Post-Bulletin, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.