Sales tax: To vote or not to vote

The Minot City Council voted Monday to proceed with a 1-cent city sales tax when a current sales tax expires in 2014, with 50 percent of the money dedicated to flood protection.

The tax would replace an existing tax that sunsets June 30, 2014. It would provide 50 percent for flood protection, 25 percent for capital improvements, 15 percent for economic development and 10 percent to property tax relief.

The council’s 11-2 vote in favor of the new tax raises several issues.

– The council members have the authority to approve the tax without a public vote. But traditionally, such decisions have been put before the voters.

– As approved on first reading, the tax would begin July 1, 2014, when the current 1 percent tax expires. The newly approved tax does not include a sunset date. We understand that no one knows how much the city’s portion of a flood control project will cost, but a tax without a sunset date makes people very nervous.

– Council members said Monday they will be listening to any public input before they vote on the tax on second reading. If they get an enough complaints, would aldermen change their minds?

– Some aldermen made the argument Monday that they were elected to lead, and they have done that by taking action on flood control. True, they are elected to lead, but they are also expected to listen to those they represent, especially on decisions of such major importance. If they are confident residents would support the new tax, why not let voters have their say?

Council members are in an unenviable position. If Minot is to build any flood protection project, the city needs money, and the likely source of that funding is a tax. If voters were to reject such a tax, what would the next step be for the city? Would the council then approve the tax anyway?

Aldermen said they will be listening to public input before they vote again on the tax. We strongly suggest anyone who has feelings in favor or in opposition take council members up on their pledge and share those opinions with their aldermen quickly. The clock is ticking.