July 28th, 2014 Mandan Park District Wants Higher Taxes, But Haven't Decided Why Local government is at it again, trying to find new and creative wa

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July 28th, 2014


Mandan Park District Wants Higher Taxes, But Haven't Decided Why


Local government is at it again, trying to find new and creative ways to raise taxes.

Typically the way government works is that elected officials decide they really need to build or fund something, then they try to raise taxes to pay for it.

Not in Mandan, they've taken the bold step to start the process of raising taxes, then worry about what to do with the money later.

From the Bismarck Tribune:

The Mandan Sales Tax Committee will hold an interactive focus group vote Aug. 13 to measure if community members and stake holders support using a new half-cent sales tax and what projects and facilities they would use it for.


The school district, park district and city will each invite up to 10 people of their choice to vote in the forum and some board members from each entity might participate. “It will be a broad spectrum of people,” Higlin said.

How broad of a spectrum would be developed by a group of residents hand-picked by the local governments?

He said if the focus group shows the half-cent sales tax lacks enough support, no ballot would be sought. If it is favored for certain projects, Higlin said it could move forward for a vote sometime in 2015. They would have to find a firm to design facilities that would be funded by the tax. Public forums would be held to explain the projects, Higlin said. He said it cannot go to a ballot unless the Mandan City Commission approves the ballot first. The park district cannot hold the election by itself.

It's not shocking that the ultimate goal of this process is a special election, since we know that turnout in special elections, just like school board elections have very low turnout.

We only need to look at the 2013 June school election where only 220 people voted.

This tactic of creating special elections is specifically designed to reduce turnout and limit the number of citizens involved in the process.

It doesn't work in case where local citizens take the initiative to really do something about educating their neighbors, as with what happened in Mott-Regent earlier this year.

Mandan residents should be leery of this process because their park district is showing them from the start what their intentions are. Without knowing specifically what the tax is funding, and knowing when the tax will end, there is no reason for any voter to support such a plan.

With all the money the state legislature keeps pumping to local government to reduce property taxes, this is just another sign that local government is not interested in being part of the property tax solution.

If the Mandan Park Board really wanted to be creative, they would consider using this proposed half-cent sales tax to drastically reduce or maybe even eliminate the Park District's portion of local property tax.

That would be a bold leadership move.


-Dustin Gawrylow, Managing Director

North Dakota Watchdog Network

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