Commission concerned about tax breaks

The city of Dickinson is concerned about two pieces of legislation which the North Dakota Legislature is currently considering. House Bills 1268 and 1422 could seriously impact the cities revenues projections going into the future City Administra...

Press Photo by John Odermann Dickinson Police Chief Chuck Rummel presents the monthly police department report at the City Commission meeting held in the City Commission room at City Hall Tuesday. It was Rummel's first report to the commission since he was appointed as the interim city administrator last fall.

The city of Dickinson is concerned about two pieces of legislation which the North Dakota Legislature is currently considering.

House Bills 1268 and 1422 could seriously impact the cities revenues projections going into the future City Administrator Shawn Kessel said at the city commission meeting Tuesday.

HB 1268 would create a sales tax exemption for clothing.

"That may on the surface seem pretty innocuous, but the financial revenue loss to the city would be rather dramatic," Kessel said.

Kessel said the revenue lost to the city as a result of HB 1268 is estimated at close to $800,000 a year, which could affect certain commitments the city has made, such as the Badlands Activities Center and West River Community Center among other projects.


The bill has already passed the House and goes to the Senate next week following the crossover.

"This concerns me, because I think the tax that needs reducing in North Dakota is property tax," City Commission President Dennis Johnson said. "When you take sales tax revenues away from cities it puts more pressure on us to still provide the services. The funding is going to come out of property taxes."

On the surface it could look like a good deal, but in the end it will most likely put the majority of the tax burden on property tax payers, Johnson said.

HB 1422 would cap taxable values at two percent. So if a home's value went up six to seven percent then only two percent of that could be taxed, Kessel explained.

"I'm all for property tax reform, but this doesn't seem to be it," Kessel said. "There would be a larger burden on the lower income homes or the lower valued homes. ... I don't think that's what we need in North Dakota."

The commission unanimously endorsed a no vote on each of the bills, and went on record opposing the legislation.

"I think this is one where Dickinson needs to go down and testify," Johnson said. "Here we have a state bill that, in effect, could cut those sales tax revenues by 20 percent. It just strikes me as being very poor legislation."

Commissioner Gene Jackson said it is important not only representatives from city staff, but also the public contact their legislators to voice their opposition to the bills for the reasons stated by the commission.


Also on the agenda, Ken Kussy, the city public works manager for streets, provided an update on the ongoing snow removal efforts throughout town following the snowstorm on Feb. 9.

Kussy said there are a lot of rumors about what the street department does and does not do in the event of a snow emergency.

One of the rumors is they do not start snow removal until the snow stops, which is not true, Kussy said.

"We started the emergency routes at 6:30 (a.m.) and some at 4:30 and in that process we opened several of them several times," Kussy said. "We ran for 29-and-a-half hours."

From Tuesday, Feb. 10 to Wednesday, Feb. 11 at 10 a.m. a total of 314 man hours were used between city employees and contracted labor for snow removal.

After an eight-hour break on Feb. 11, snow removal activities resumed at 6 p.m. and ran until 2 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 12. A total of 240 man hours were used during that period.

"We're pulling snow out where we can, blowing it where we can. We have several areas to go. Hopefully we're going to get through here before we get anymore snow or we're going to be in trouble in some of these areas," Kussy said.

Kussy said another rumor that is out there is that they are out of money and, as far as he knows, that is not the case.


Commissioner Joe Frenzel said the snow removal crews have done an exceptional job.

"Despite the limitations the city has, I think the job that has been done has been very commendable all winter long," Frenzel said.

Commissioner Gene Jackson said there aren't many aspects of running a city that receive more scrutiny than snow removal because it is so readily apparent and it might be good to publicize the city's snow removal policy.

Jackson said if people understand which streets are cleared first and are considered a priority it could be helpful.

In other business:

* The city approved a tax abatement for property owned by Sandra Koffler at 537 Third Ave. East. The valuation of the property was reduced from $91,100 to $69,500.

* The city commission issued a $6,500 sales tax grant to the Dickinson Dolphins Swim Team for a crows nest to be constructed at the West River Community Center. The crows nest would be used at swim meets to run electronic equipment.

* Approval of a new city attorney contract between the city and the law firm Ebeltoft, Sickler, Kolling, Grosz & Bouray.


* Approval of a resolution to establish the city's annual sidewalk improvement district. The program assists homeowners with the repairs of their deteriorated sidewalk, curb and gutters.

* Kessel presented the commission with a budget amendment. The amendment would allocate $1.8 million to the BAC project in 2009 to lower the remaining commitment to $4.2 million in future year's budgets. Kessel said the move makes sense because they have the money at the current time.

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