Group emerges to oppose Rochester sales and school tax measures on ballot

A citizen group hoping to stir up opposition to Rochester City Hall’s proposed local sales tax extension and Rochester Public Schools’ technology referendum has emerged in the closing weeks of the November ballot measures. The anti-tax grassroots campaign came to light when one of its leaders told city councilors why she opposed the city’s proposed $205 million sales tax extension in a meeting covered by the Post Bulletin.

“I will always fight to keep the money I make and not give it to government waste,” Casey McGregor told the Rochester City Council during its Oct. 16 meeting.

The Rochester business owner and former council candidate cited work with the “Just Say No To The TaxMan” Committee, which was created and officially filed with the Minnesota Secretary of State last month.

She said the group’s website — — seeks to outline opposition to the two tax-related questions set for the Nov. 7 ballot, while encouraging people to get out and vote.

The anti-tax campaign would appear to face an uphill battle to get out its message, going up against some of the city’s heavy hitters. The Rochester Chamber of Commerce threw its support behind the sales tax hike early on, holding public information sessions to promote its passage. Meantime, Rochester Public Schools have highlighted “The Technology for Transformation” referendum that would raise more than $100 million over the next decade.

With the goal of defeating both tax questions facing Rochester residents, [committee member John] Whelan said his effort started with the proposed school levy, which is seeking to generate $10.15 million a year for 10 years through property taxes.

The district estimates the monthly cost at $11.25 for someone with a $325,000 home, which is the average home value in Olmsted County.

Whelan said past school district practices and outcomes cause him to question whether the funds will be spent appropriately.

The opponents best shot may be in focusing attention on the need for a $65 million regional sports and recreation complex that’s part of the sales tax extension. City officials have had struggled for months to defend why the expensive facility made it on the ballot.

McGregor, who has frequently pointed to what she sees as unneeded spending, suggests more can be done with what the city already receives in other tax revenue.

“City staff and council have no respect for the tax dollars spent,” she said, also questioning the length of the current sales tax proposal.

“The referendum is taxing your children,” she said. “If I had a baby today, my child would not vote on this until they are 24. This referendum is taxing the future.”

Anything’s possible in an off-year election. It all comes down to who turns out to vote in an election that began on September 22 with early voting now a reality.