In 2011, Minot voters approved a plan to redirect some city sales tax money to a fund that would go toward property tax relief (30 percent), infrastructure (40 percent) and community facilities (30 percent). Following the Souris River flood, the Minot Park District requested and was granted money from the fund to help with repairs to the Jack Hoeven Baseball Park, which made sense considering the intent of the funds set aside for community facilities.
But this week, the Minot Park Board requested that the Minot City Council designate half of the money set aside for community facilities strictly for use by the park district, for the 10-year duration of the tax.
That raises a couple of questions.
First, does the city council have the authority to automatically redirect a portion of the tax? If the council does not have the authority, then such a decision would likely have to be put on the ballot for voters to decide, since voters originally approved the language of the ordinance.
Second, would giving half of the allotted 30 percent for community facilities exclusively to the park district, either by council decision or voter approval, be a proper use of the funds? Well, that likely depends on who you ask. There's no denying the park district needs financial help with ongoing flood recovery efforts, and the money from the city sales tax fund would certainly speed the district's ability to make repairs to damaged parks , Souris Valley Golf Course and Roosevelt Park Zoo. But what other potential projects wouldn't get funded because the park district would get half the funds?
We're not against the park board's request, but we want to make sure the decision is handled properly, whether it's made by the council or is voted on by Minot residents. If park board members expect public support, there should be public discussion on the issue, so voters have the ability to express their support or reservations about the idea.