What Price Progress?

Putting a Price on a Better City

By Doug Dalager

Better City SuperiorThe Better City Superior group is steadily moving towards an Advisory Referendum on November 8th. That would put our elected officials on notice that we want their leadership in helping to get the Exposition District legislation in the State budget come July.

This vote may mean more to Superior’s future than the outcome of the crazy presidential election we’ve endured for the past several months.

In this post, I hope to demonstrate the real cost that city residents would incur should this initiative get passed by the citizenry of our fair city. (Keep in mind that an advisory referendum is just that…advisory, i.e., a non-binding vote that says in so many words, “Hey, let’s give this some thought!”)

As I’ve explained in previous articles, the proposed “consumption” taxes (meaning sales tax) are 2¾% on hotel/motel stays and rental cars, and ½% on food and beverages in restaurants and bars. These taxes would only be levied within the city limits of Superior.

Better City Superior - Vote Yes on November 8th for ProgressAssuming that few of us stay in local hotels very often, and are even less likely to rent a car…the only tax that would be felt at all by most Superior residents would be the ½% on food and beverages. Bruce Thompson of Better City Superior has explained to many audiences that this amounts to a nickel on a $10 restaurant bill.

A Tale of Two Cities: 7 West Taphouse

I thought this could be better demonstrated by simply going out to eat in establishments that have outlets in both cities. For my first field trip, I chose to visit 7 West Taphouse in Duluth last Friday, and their brand new location in Superior today. Both visits took place between noon and 1 p.m.

In both instances I ordered the exact same items…one Sugar Daddy Burger with Fries and one 16 oz. glass of Pabst Blue Ribbon. The price of the burger and fries was the same in both locations, but the beer was 50¢ less in Superior (another benefit of staying close to home!)

Here is a picture of both bills side by side….

The real cost of passing the Better City Superior initiative

Click this picture for the Top 5 Reasons to Vote for a Better City

The total bill pre-tax in Duluth was $12.08, and $11.58 in Superior (thanks to cheaper beer prices). Sales taxes in Duluth include 6.875% for the state, 2.25% for food & beverage establishments, 1.0% for Duluth’s General Sales Tax, and ½% for the St. Louis County Transit Sales/Use Tax…for a total of 10.625%.

As you can see, my Duluth bill included a $1.37 for sales tax, or 11.34%! Not sure why, but I got hit for another ¾% (9¢) for some reason…a hipster tax perhaps? Follow this link for more on the cost of taxation in Duluth.

As stated above, the total bill at 7 West Taphouse in Superior was $11.58, plus the standard Wisconsin State Sales Tax of 5½%, in this case, 64¢. You read that right, 64¢ tax in Superior compared to $1.37 in Duluth! That alone is a savings of 73¢, not counting the $1 I plugged into the parking meter in Duluth versus free on street parking on Tower Avenue.

If the Better City Superior folks are able to convince us to Vote Yes on November 8th, an extra ½% would result in an increase of 5¢ (the tax would likely go from 64¢ to 69¢ thanks to downward rounding).

Even if the beer was priced higher in Superior to match the Duluth price, the total tax in Superior would still be only 72¢…or 65¢ less than in Duluth. Did I mention the free parking in Superior? I would say this is a small price to pay for redeveloping our downtown.

Watch for More Comparison Shopping Posts

Tomorrow I will post an article demonstrating the difference in sales tax when ordering the same items at the Erberts & Gerberts in Duluth versus Superior.

More Info About Better City Superior

The Better City Superior group has scheduled another community forum to explain the details behind their proposal, and to take your questions. The next meeting will be on Thursday, October 20th at 6:30 p.m. in the Superior Library. The public is strongly urged to attend, whether you are in favor or opposed to BCS, you owe it to your community to be informed.

For more information about BCS, please follow the links below to read previous articles on ES about this initiative:

Better City Superior Issues Status Report (October 1, 2016)
Lunch & Learn About BCS (September 23, 2016)
Better City Survey Results (September 13, 2016)
Origin of Better City (September 9, 2016)
Better City Vision Shared  (August 31, 2016)
Better City Receives Council Support (August 18, 2016)
Better City Wants Your Opinion  (December 16, 2015)
Better City Initiative  (November 5, 2015)


One thought on “What Price Progress?

  1. Dave Schmidt

    I would gladly pay higher taxes if it leads to a better city. One proviso, though. I’ve seen how money has bee frittered away in Superior such as the inefficient, ill-planned, highly priced government center and the siting of the Mariner Mall. Frankly, what I would like to see are quality of life improvements which need not be big ticket items but suggest to prospective employers that Superior Is moving forward. Industries are interested in siting their businesses where their employees can be happy, i.e., good schools, pleasant opens spaces, well-kept roads, nice after hours entertainment (not necessarily more bars) and a progressive government. Superior physically has a lot going for it, it’s flat and has an extensive shoreline, plus having UW-Superior and WITC is a source of well-educated employees.

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