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Published June 13 2012

Flood-prone areas drove thin win for sales tax

FARGO – Eight of Fargo’s 20 precincts gave a citywide sales tax measure the push it needed Tuesday to reach the supermajority required for passage, most of them on the city’s south side.

A breakdown of the citywide vote on Fargo’s half-cent sales tax extension shows the eight precincts where at least 60 percent of voters supported the sales tax included most precincts south of Interstate 94, the city’s most flood-prone area.

The measure needed 60 percent approval to pass. In unofficial but complete results, 60.3 percent of Fargo voters approved the sales tax extension, which will be used to fund a mix of infrastructure and flood protection. It was 63 votes over the 60 percent mark.

The close outcome was just eight “no” votes short of the number needed to force an automatic recount.

When lobbying Fargo voters this spring, city leaders emphasized that the tax revenue would be spent on internal flood protection projects, which should ultimately take Fargo out of the revised 100-year floodplain. Without those projects, almost the entire area of Fargo south of I-94 could see higher insurance rates under new flood maps the Federal Emergency Management Agency is due to release this summer.

Neighborhoods where flood projects have yet to be completed or even started seemed to give the most enthusiastic support to the sales tax extension.

Voters in precincts 41-02, 46-02 and 46-03 approved Fargo’s ballot measure by between 64.1 and 68.2 percent, results show.

Those precincts include neighborhoods like Rose Creek and others south of 32nd Avenue South between Interstate 29 and the Red River.

Only one precinct north of I-94 supported the measure by more than 60 percent, results showed.

Precinct 44-01, along the Red River between Sixth and 19th avenues north, had Fargo’s largest turnout with 2,054 ballots cast on the city measure. Of those, 60.8 percent voted “yes.”

Half of Fargo’s precincts favored the sales tax extension with a majority but not by enough to reach the required 60 percent for passage.

Several precincts came close to that benchmark, though, approving the measure with at least 59 percent of the vote.

Out of 20 precincts in Fargo, only two produced results that mostly opposed the tax extension.

The 430 voters in precinct 16-01, south of Main Avenue near 45th Street, rejected the measure with 51.6 percent voting against.

Similarly, three of the five residents who cast Fargo ballots in the Horace precinct also opposed the tax extension.

Tuesday’s results, which still must be certified, left the tax extension just short of requiring an automatic recount, city and county officials said. For local measures, state law requires an automatic recount only if the margin is less than 0.25 percent.

“We, of course, will have to wait until canvassing, where we may count some additional absentee ballots to determine the official results,” Cass County Auditor Mike Montplaisir said in an email to The Forum.

As approved by voters, the half-cent sales tax, which expires this month, will return Jan. 1 and last through 2032.

It should generate at least $11 million a year. But with the city’s growth, that tax revenue could climb to

$22 million a year by 2031, resulting in a total income of $312 million over the life of the 20-year tax.


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Readers can reach Forum reporter Kristen Daum at (701) 241-5541