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Sales tax set for June ballot

West Fargo voters will be asked to mark “yes” to two questions on the June 10 ballot that will raise the city sales tax 1 percent to help pay for nearly $120 million in infrastructure projects around the city in the next 20 years.

City Attorney Jon Shockley said the ballot question must be two parts because a change in city sales tax from 1 to 2 percent is considered a change to the city charter.

On Monday, the City Commission approved the ballot questions, which will first ask voters to approve a change to the city charter. Then in a second question, voters will be asked to approve the sales tax increase by setting an ordinance.

If approved, the sales tax would increase from 6.5 percent to 7.5 percent – a figure that includes state tax – and would equal Fargo’s rate.

The money raised from the sales tax, an estimated $60 million over 20 years, would help pay for items needed across the city, said City Administrator Jim Brownlee.

He said the tax is collected from everyone who shops in the city and helps keep special assessments and utility rate increases down.

The projects include building a new $2.5 million water tower near Veterans Boulevard and 32nd Avenue East this year to expanding future lagoons in the next 10 to 20 years, a project that could carry a $16 million-plus price tag.

The sales tax could be used for 2014 projects such as the new water tower, plus a $100,000 water tower evaluation report; a $300,000 traffic signal installation at Veterans Boulevard and 26th Avenue East; a $1.5 million storm sewer repair project for Elmwood Park; and $1.8 million for a Meadow Ridge storm lift reconstruction and pond rehab.

In the next five to 10 years, the sales tax could also pay for:

• $4 million Main Avenue project.

• $2.5 million in citywide flood improvements.

• $1.5 million improvement project at Ninth Street East and 13th Avenue intersection.

• $3.5 million to retrofit Drain No. 21.

• $10 million to purchase about 400 acres for wastewater system land.

• Street improvements to Ninth Street East, Stockyards Road, Fourth Avenue East, Seventh Avenue West, 17th Street East and First Avenue East, among other projects.

Property taxes, which provide 16 percent of the city’s budgeted revenue, are not used to pay for infrastructure construction.

Voters will need to approve both questions for the sales tax to be implemented.

Mayor Rich Matter said Monday that he wanted to make sure that voters are not confused by the two questions on the ballot. To help quell confusion about the sales tax, Brownlee has said that a number of public information initiatives are planned before the June 10 election day to inform voters about the sales tax measure.