Discussing the future of the half-percent sales taxAfter the defeat of a proposed amendment on the June 10 ballot that would have allowed the Dickinson City Commission to appropriate funds collected by the city’s half-percent sales tax without a vote from the people, the future of that money is up in the air.
By: John Odermann, The Dickinson Press
DICKINSON - After the defeat of a proposed amendment on the June 10 ballot that would have allowed the Dickinson City Commission to appropriate funds collected by the city’s half-percent sales tax without a vote from the people, the future of that money is up in the air.
One thing is clear, any “non-essential” project that requests money from the city, if it is to come from the half-percent sales tax, will have to go on the ballot.
Tim Beaudoin, a member of the Dickinson Watchdogs, a group that actively campaigned against the ordinance, said it’s important there is some community oversight.
“We’re saying that when it comes to major nonessential projects the people need to be aware of them,” Beaudoin said. “...That’s the right thing to do and what we’re asking for is nonessential projects.”
The original city ordinance that created the half-percent sales tax reads that the tax can be used for the West River Community Center, infrastructure, or property tax relief.
According to City Commissioner Carson Steiner, there are currently no projects in front of the commission that has requested funds, but he does think it will happen.
“The deal there was to allow the city commission to have the same authority with the half-percent that they do with the one percent sales tax,” Steiner said. “I think that was their concern, they want to vote on projects that would come up.”
President of the City Commission, Dennis Johnson, said there is really only one project being talked about right now in the community that might come to request funds.
“The only project that’s known that’s out there is the Badlands Activity Center at the college,” Johnson said, adding he believes it’s only a matter of time before the university requests funds. “I believe they will. I’m not sure just how we’re going to deal with the request of the university; I’m still kind of studying the options.”
The options Johnson has considered are the 30 percent of the original 1 percent sales tax, which can be appropriated by the commission. There are also some monies available from the cities hospitality tax.
Beyond that, if the commission wished to pull funds from the half percent money, it would have to ask for an amendment to be placed on the ballot requesting those funds.
“I think if there’s any project out there that certain organizations or the community want to go after they come to the city and request it,” Steiner said. “We’ve always said that we want to hear the public and this is why we ran and we’re willing to listen to the public and we’re going to put things up so they can let us know what they’re thinking.”
Beaudoin said that’s the best possible approach to non-essential projects, mainly because there is a grey area where one person thinks it is essential, but another does not.
Voting helps clear up the grey area Beaudoin said.
“These things don’t come up that often and when they do come up I think they have a responsibility to put it up to a vote of the people,” Beaudoin said. “You cannot gauge by saying let the people call me up as a city commissioner and talk to me...It’s an accurate gauge when you go to a vote of the people.”