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Dickinson City leaders advocate for sales tax hike in preparation for presidential library

During a City Commission meeting on Tuesday, Mayor Scott Decker argued in favor of increasing the sales tax as part of a plan to provide property tax relief while boosting funding to various municipal projects.

Scott Decker
Dickinson Mayor Scott Decker during a Dickinson City Commission meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 20.
Jason O'Day / The Dickinson Press
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DICKINSON — During a regular Dickinson City Commission on Tuesday, Sept. 20, city officials reviewed and discussed the 2023 city budget and forwarded a proposed sales tax increase.

2023 City Budget

During the first reading of the 2023 budget, Deputy City Administrator Linda Carlson outlined the city's budget by highlighting a general fund budget of $25,405,074 — a 13% increase from the previous year.

During previous work sessions, commissioners decided on a 2% merit and 4% COLA pay raise for city employees and projected a rise in health insurance costs, several new positions and maintenance expenses for the Downtown Square which remains under construction.

Commissioner John Odermann noted that Dickinson property taxes have remained steady, with Carlson noting that the city has consistently requested around $5.7 million from Stark County.

Proposed Sales Tax Hike

North Dakota cities are allowed to collect a sales tax of up to 8%, with the first 5% being collected by the state. Carlson noted that Dickinson currently has a sales tax of 6.5% (1.5%) and that rate is lower than most cities. Bismarck currently has a sales tax rate of 6.5%, Jamestown's is 7.5% and Williston enacted an 8% tax in recent years. These figures do not include county sales taxes, which some home rule counties are allowed to collect. Stark County is not a home rule county.

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The proposal increasing the sales tax presented by Carlson would raise it by one percentage point to 7.5%. The new funds levied through the increase would be allocated as follows: 40% to property tax reduction, 30% for capital and infrastructure improvement projects, and 30% to community betterment projects.

The proposal will be presented to the citizens of Dickinson via a November 8 ballot measure, and if approved will then be put to a vote of the city commission to ratify.

Mayor Scott Decker said this would mean $2.4 million in property tax relief and around $1.8 million each for capital and infrastructure improvements, with another $1.8 million for community improvement.

Decker touted the proposal as a great opportunity for Dickinson to prepare for and capitalize on the projected increased tourism that will result after the completion of the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library. The library is slated to open in 2026.

He argued that the proposed tax would be, “the fairest tax for individuals, because it is a consumption tax.”

Police Report

During the meeting, Interim Police Chief Joe Cianni presented a report to the commission noting the department's 195 arrests in the month of August — up from 139 in August 2021.

According to Cianni, June and July saw noticeable increases in arrest. The increases prompted Odermann to inquire on the cause, suggesting economic conditions as a possibility. Cianni said it’s difficult to pin the increase on a single cause, but agreed that economic conditions could very well be a factor.

John Odermann
Dickinson City Commissioner John Odermann listens as Interim Police Chief Joe Cianni explains the city's crime rates.
Jason O'Day / The Dickinson Press

“The economic downturn has been impactful for us. We do see a lot more transients coming through town,” Cianni said, adding there’s been a recent spike in drug induced mental health incidents. “We had a gentleman who was out in the cornfield and thought someone in orange hunting attire was hunting for him. And we attribute that potentially to some bad narcotics that were coming through town.”

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The report concluded with information presented on a case relating to a 3-year-old who was shot in the leg when a 9mm handgun was "accidentally discharged."

According to Cianni, the child is expected to make a full recovery.

The Dickinson Police records department confirmed that the incident occurred on Aug. 6 and that the firing of the shot was caused by a child. According to police the matter is being reviewed and handled by social services and that further details could not be provided.

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Jason O’Day is a University of Iowa graduate, with Bachelor’s Degrees in Journalism and Political Science. Before moving to Dickinson in September of 2021, he was a general news reporter at the Creston News Advertiser in rural southwest Iowa. He was born and raised in Davenport, Iowa. With a passion for the outdoors and his Catholic faith, he’s loving life on the Western Edge.
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