What is a community facility?

Better late than never, we guess.

A committee has begun the difficult task of determining the definition of a “community facility” that could be eligible for sales tax assistance from the city.

The committee has much work to do, given that several organizations that in all likelihood won’t qualify in the future have already benefitted from the sales tax funds.

The funding comes from a vote in 2011 when Minot citizens redirected the sales tax from the Northwest Area Water Supply to infrastructure, community facilities and property tax relief. The 30 percent community facilities portion of the tax will generate an estimated $3.9 million this year.

After the committee’s initial meeting, it’s apparent there are clear differences of opinion on what constitutes a community facility. Committee member Dean Somerville suggested that only community facilities operated by political subdivisions should be eligible for funding. Minot city council member Dave Lehner’s idea of a community facility is a fire station or a flood control project. Kari Conrad pointed out that local arts programs wouldn’t likely be eligible if they are required to partner with a political subdivision. Whichever definition the committee ultimately creates, it’s likely the days of awarding public tax dollars to entities such as Minot Ryan High School, Minot State University, the Minot Commission on Aging and the Minot Curling Club are over.

Thus far, the entire process of deciding which organizations receive sales tax funding has been sorely lacking direction, to say the least. Instead, it was little more than a first-come, first-served distribution system.?That must change. It will be the committee’s task to create binding guidelines and qualifications, and then it will be up the the city council to follow those guidelines in the future.