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Sales tax on ballot for infrastructure projects

More lagoons, road improvements throughout the city and a better flowing intersection at 13th Avenue to 9th Street South are just a few of the $109 million infrastructure projects the city would complete in the next 20 years using a sales tax leaders hope will be passed on June 10.

City officials have proposed raising the sales tax 1 percent to pay for about 60 projects proposed over 20 years throughout the city. But to do that, voters will need to approve two ballot questions.

Because raising the sales tax from 1 to 2 percent is considered a change to city charter, there must be two ballot questions. The first question will ask voters to approve a change to city charter. The second will ask voters to approve the sales tax increase by setting an ordinance.

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

City Administrator Jim Brownlee said the list of projects do not include items such as a possible water treatment facility, a new community center or an aquatic center.

Brownlee estimated the tax would bring in $50 million to $60 million over a 20-year span, a number that could be much higher because it is based on a formula using only a 1 percent increase in sales tax revenue each year. The city has generally seen a 3 percent increase each year. Brownlee estimates the tax will generate an additional renual of $3.2 million annually.

Mayor Rich Mattern has said the commission supports the sales tax increase as a way to keep special assessments and property taxes down, although neighborhood roads and improvements in new developments would still be covered by traditional specials and taxes.

“(The sales tax) certainly will help if we can reduce future specials and take that burden off homeownders,” Brownlee said.

The sales tax would 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 city wide 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.

Commissioners have said updating water and lagoon systems are a priority for the city because they can prevent notorious “bad smells” from wafting through neighborhoods, a problem the city has heard complaints about before.

Only a simple voter majority will be needed to approve the sales tax increase.