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Published June 22, 2009, 12:00 AM

Many cities in North Dakota have 7 percent sales tax

If Fargo voters approve an extra half-percent sales tax on June 30 to pay for permanent flood control projects, the city would not be alone at the 7 percent plateau.

By: Helmut Schmidt, INFORUM

If Fargo voters approve an extra half-percent sales tax on June 30 to pay for permanent flood control projects, the city would not be alone at the 7 percent plateau.

Of the 123 North Dakota cities and three counties that have sales and use taxes, 31 cities have 2 percent in local sales taxes that bring their state and local total to 7 percent, according to records from the state tax commissioner’s office.

Those cities include Devils Lake, Hillsboro, Jamestown, Mayville, Minot, Valley City and Williston.

Fargo also would not have the highest sales tax in the state. That distinction belongs to Medora, which has a 2½ percent local sales tax that started in April of 2002 to bring its total to 7½ cents on the dollar, tax commissioner records show.

Grand Forks now has a local sales tax of 1¾ percent, bringing its total sales tax to 6¾ percent.

If the half-percent tax is approved, it would produce about $200 million over 20 years. If all deadlines are met, it would go into effect Jan. 1.

Speaking at a Coalition for Protection Fargo’s Future news conference, Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker said Friday that the half-percent sales tax would raise money for Fargo’s share of metro-wide flood control without painful increases in special assessments or property taxes.

Fargo’s sales tax is now 6½ percent. Of that:

  • 5 percent goes to the state.

  • One-half percent is used for road infrastructure projects. It lasts through June 2012.

  • Another 1 percent will be used for large water and wastewater projects, as well as road infrastructure projects. That tax, approved by voters in 2006, went into effect Jan. 1 of this year and is to run through December 2028.

City Commissioner Tim Mahoney, also part of the news conference, said with the half-percent tax ending in June 2012, the extra half percent for 30 months should not be onerous.

“We feel this is not too much to ask,” Mahoney said.

No flood control plan has been approved yet. Both Fargo and Moorhead have to come to agreement on a project to support.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is now studying flood control alternatives for the metro area.

Walaker said the corps’ timetable calls for having a project ready to recommend to Congress by December 2010.

Mahoney and Walaker said federal agencies want to be assured Fargo can pay its cost share for any large flood control project, which could well run into the $1 billion range.

The federal government pays 65 percent of the cost of approved projects, leaving 35 percent to be picked up by state and local governments.

An estimate by the coalition puts Fargo’s potential cost share at $205 million.

“We need to assure our funding,” Walaker said. “Special assessments are not the course to take. We’re talking about a serious amount of money.”

North Dakota cities that have 7 percent sales tax

According to the North Dakota state tax commissioner’s office, 31 cities already have a total sales tax of 7 percent. They include:

Belfield, Bottineau, Cando, Devils Lake, Drake, Edgeley, Garrison, Grafton, Hillsboro, Jamestown, Kenmare, Kulm, Langdon, Linton, Mayville, Minot, Napoleon, Neche, New England, New Rockford, Park River, Portland, Regent, Richardton, Steele, Turtle Lake, Valley City, Velva, Walhalla, Washburn and Williston.

One city, Medora, has a 7½-cent sales tax.

Grand Forks has a 6¾-cent sales tax.

The state of North Dakota charges a 5-cent sales tax on every dollar for retail sales, communications services, magazines, cigarettes and tobacco products, admission for recreation activities, leasing and renting hotel or tourist court accommodations, and leasing of property.

There is a 7 percent state sales tax on retail sales of alcoholic beverages sold for consumption on or off premises.

There is a 3 percent sales tax on retail sales of new farm machinery, irrigation equipment for agricultural use, and new mobile homes.

There is a 1 percent sales tax on the gross receipts of retail sales of natural gas.

Cities and counties that adopt home rule charters can levy sales and use taxes.

– Helmut Schmidt

Voting options

Fargoans who want to vote early on whether the city should add a half-percent to its 6½ percent sales tax have two options.

Voters can vote by absentee ballot, or they can go to the Doublewood Inn, 3333 13th Ave. S., to cast their ballot in person.

Cass County will run the vote, which will cost $20,000, Auditor Mike Montplaisir said.

Absentee ballots are available at the county courthouse from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday through June 29, he said.

Absentee ballots can also be obtained by calling the auditor’s office at (701) 241-5601.

Early voting will be held from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday at the Doublewood, he said.

The June 30 vote will run from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at 16 sites. People wondering where to vote can visit www.casscountynd.gov/departments/auditor/


Forum staff reports

Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583