Council supports sales tax for flood control

Bypassing the traditional citywide vote, the Minot City Council voted Monday to re-enact a city sales tax when the tax expires next year. Half of the proceeds would go toward flood protection.

The action requires a second reading for final passage, and council members expect to hear from constituents before they vote again.

The 11-2 council vote reflected some concern by council members Dean Frantsvog and Scott Knudsvig about skipping an election.

Frantsvog said residents need to have a say about a tax that could be in place for 30 years.

“Because of the magnitude of it, I just don’t want the council to make a decision without the input of the people,” he said. “The citizens deserve a voice, and I would like to give it to them.”

“We are in a position where we need this tax,” council member Larry Frey said. “I think they will understand.”

The tax approved by the council gives 50 percent for flood control, 25 percent for capital improvements, 15 percent for economic development and 10 percent for property-tax relief starting July 1, 2014. It doesn’t include a sunset.

It would replace the existing tax that now is split with 50 percent going to capital improvements, 40 percent to economic development and 10 percent to property-tax relief. The current tax sunsets June 30, 2014.

The council had received information indicating that a half percent sales tax would raise $230 million over 30 years. The required local share is unknown. The project from Burlington to Velva is estimated to cost $820 million, with the city portion at $530 million.

“It might not be enough, but at least we have a start with financing our end of the project,” Mayor Curt Zimbelman said.

He said the city needs to have a source of local funding before approaching the state and federal government for help. Other options to pay for flood control are property tax and special assessment, he said.

“I just don’t think the two other alternatives are viable,” he said.

Council member Bob Miller said council has heard from the people. By their actions in rebuilding after the flood, they are saying that they want the city to fund flood protection, he said.

Council member Blake Krabseth added that the council was elected to lead, and its action on the sales tax shows that it is doing so on the issue of flood control.

The mayor and council indicated that they will be listening for public feedback in the next month, though. People can find contact information for council members at (www.minotnd.org) under the “city government” heading.