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New sales tax language finalized

Dickinson's Half Cent Sales Tax Committee finalized language Monday for an ordinance that would dedicate new sales tax revenue to the city's fire and police departments.

Dickinson's Half Cent Sales Tax Committee finalized language Monday for an ordinance that would dedicate new sales tax revenue to the city's fire and police departments.

With the language decided, the ordinance can be drafted and a petition circulated among the community for inclusion on this November's ballot.

If approved, the first $1 million or 60 percent of the total public safety tax revenue will be split equally between the police and fire departments to supplant funds previously obtained from the general fund, Linda Carlson, deputy city administrator, explained.

Mayor Scott Decker emphasized the funds will not supplement the departments' budgets but will be used in place of dollars drawn from the city's general fund.

If passed in November, revenue would start to be collected in April and received by the city in June, Carlson said.

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"In 2019, we'd only get half of what a year's worth of revenue would be, because we don't even start seeing the revenue until June," she said.

Additional revenue beyond $1 million will be reserved for public safety purposes, Carlson said, including operation and staffing. Any unused funds will be held for future public safety purposes.

Relief on the general fund will benefit the community, Decker said at Monday's meeting.

He emphasized that general fund dollars would go to city commissioner-approved efforts, such as property tax relief, quality of life projects or paying the city's debt.

"If you're freeing up $1.2 million a year, that's $1.2 million a year more we can put towards the $87 million (of debt)," he said. "We instructed city staff, whatever additional funds we have, we want to pay the debt now. We made that a priority."

Dickinson Fire Chief Bob Sivak said his department would use funds to hire additional and needed personnel, for building and maintenance, and for apparatus replacement.

A proposed fire training facility, created with the new revenue, would include classrooms and an indoor firing range that could also be accessed by the public.

"Being at the station and then moving to the training facility, yes, that's doable," Sivak said. "But having a classroom, bathroom facilities and everything right there, they do their classroom portion and step right onto the training grounds, is really desirable."

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Dickinson Police Chief Dustin Dassinger said his department would benefit from the sales tax revenue, as well.

"Even if we had this public safety tax, I wouldn't be making any requests I wouldn't make normally," he said. "It's my goal to build a stronger drug task force for our city and also to work on our school resource officer program, because our school population is growing, society is changing, and we need to make some changes."

A petition for the November ballot will require 511 signatures, and will be circulated through the community as soon as May 1.

Signatures are due to the city administrator by July 20. This will allow the committee to meet the July 31 deadline for the Aug. 7 agenda of the city commissioners.

The petition must be approved by commissioners before Aug. 8, which is 90 days before the election, per state guidelines.

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