Anoka County takes action on CTIB dissolution a second time

Contributing Writer

A second resolution terminating the Counties Transit Improvement Board joint powers agreement and replacing it with a county transportation tax was approved unanimously by the Anoka County Board June 13 following a public hearing at which no one spoke.

But this will not be a new tax on county residents, according to Commissioner Scott Schulte.

“I want to be crystal clear that we are not implementing a new tax, but a continuation of the CTIB tax as it exists now,” Schulte said. “There are no new tax dollars.”

Instead of the dollars going directly to CTIB, they will be coming directly to the county, said Anoka County Board Chairperson Rhonda Sivarajah.

CTIB was created following passage of state legislation in 2008 authorizing Anoka, Carver, Dakota, Hennepin, Ramsey, Scott and Washington counties to impose a 0.25 percent sales and use tax and an excise tax of $20 per motor vehicle purchased or acquired to fund transit projects.

That led the counties of Anoka, Dakota, Hennepin, Ramsey and Washington to approve a joint powers agreement to create CTIB and activate the taxes. Carver and Scott counties opted out. The Counties Transit Improvement Board is made up of two county board members from each of the five counties; Schulte and Commissioner Matt Look represent Anoka County.

Earlier this year, a majority on the Counties Transit Improvement Board wanted to disband because state legislation passed since 2008 gives non-CTIB counties the ability to levy up to a 0.5 percent sales tax for transportation projects, not limited to transit projects.

The Counties Transit Improvement Board approved a resolution on March 8 agreeing to pay all outstanding debt and obligations subject to the member county boards voting by March 31 to terminate the joint powers agreement so that CTIB would cease to exist June 30.

Anoka County did so following a March public hearing, but the Dakota County Board did not because of a disagreement over the amount it was owed.

Negotiations since then have produced an agreement that resulted in CTIB voting unanimously to dissolve, with the joint powers agreements involving the five counties to terminate Sept. 30 and the new replacement transportation tax to start Oct. 1.

The Minnesota Department of Revenue required the second public hearing and approval of the resolution, according to Sivarajah.

“The transportation tax will give the county maximum flexibility,” said Karen Skepper, assistant executive director of the Anoka County Regional Rail Authority.

Under the resolution approved by the Anoka County Board June 13, Anoka County will be responsible for 81.4 percent of the CTIB share of the Northstar Commuter Rail net operating subsidy with Hennepin County paying the balance.

In addition, the CTIB funding commitment to the Hanson Boulevard rail overpass project in Coon Rapids will be met, while Anoka County will receive a $4.1 million cash payment from CTIB plus $3.8 million in leftover dollars from the CTIB contribution to the Highway 10-Armstrong Boulevard interchange project in Ramsey, according to Schulte.

Those dollars will be earmarked for Anoka County’s annual share of the Northstar commuter rail subsidy, which is currently $6 million but is rising, Schulte said.

But through the transportation tax the county will impose under the resolution, revenues will be in the $11 million range, he said.

The balance after the Northstar subsidy is paid will be spent on projects spelled out in the Anoka County transportation tax implementation plan approved by the board in March and again June 13.

The plan includes capital costs of specific transportation projects or improvements (all road, bridge, sidewalk and trail projects identified in the 2017-2021 capital improvements plan and subsequent five-year plans); capital costs of a safe route to school program; and capital and operating for specific transit projects or improvements costs including all county costs associated with the Anoka County Traveler dial-a-ride and fixed route systems, the county’s MedLink volunteer driver program and the county’s Commute Solutions’ transportation management organization projects and improvements.