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Wendy Reuer, Published February 03 2014

West Fargo OKs ballot language for June vote to raise sales tax

WEST FARGO – Voters here will have to answer “yes” to two ballot questions in June before the city can raise its sales tax to pay for infrastructure projects.

City Attorney John Shockley said because raising the sales tax from 1 to 2 percent is considered a change to city charter, there must be two ballot questions. The first question will ask voters to approve a change to city charter. The second will ask voters to approve the sales tax increase by setting an ordinance.

“You can’t mix two questions together,” Shockley said.

Commissioners said on Monday they were concerned the two questions would confuse voters.

But City Administrator Jim Brownlee said he plans a number of open public meetings to clarify the ballot issue and how the sales tax will be used.

Brownlee has already identified about 60 infrastructure projects totaling roughly $109 million that likely will be completed in the next 20 years across the city.

He said Monday those projects do not include items such as a possible water treatment facility, a new community center or an aquatic center.

If approved, the sales tax would go from 6.5 percent to 7.5 percent – a figure that includes state tax – and would equal Fargo’s rate.

The commission unanimously approved the ballot language Monday night. The election is scheduled June 10.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Wendy Reuer at (701) 241-5530