Posted 5/20/14 (Tue)
(Editor’s Note: On June 10, Watford City voters will be asked to decide on continuing the city’s sales tax and increasing it from one percent to 1½ percent.
This is the third of a four-part series of stories on the Roughrider Fund, as well as the main projects that the fund will be asked to contribute to in the future.)
By Stephanie Norman
Farmer Staff Writer
For 16 years, the Watford City city sales tax has generated nearly $5 million and has all been allocated to community projects to enhance the quality of life in Watford City.
On June 10, if Watford City voters do not approve increasing the city sales tax, from one percent to 1½ percent, then there will be no city sales tax at all. And that means there will no longer be the need for the Roughrider Committee, and the quality of life will taper off without the generated funds.
“We’re trying to inform the community on what the city sales tax can do for them,” Jessie Scofield, a spokesperson for the “Vote Yes” Committee, said. “There are a lot of ‘quality of life’ projects in the works right now. But they need funding to move forward.”
The Roughrider Fund is one of the sources of funding that the city projects are looking at in order to continue planning and building.
“If we educate people on what the Roughrider Fund and the one percent city sales tax has done in the past, maybe it will open their eyes,” Scofield said.
Since 1998, 33 percent of the Roughrider Fund has gone to housing development; 24 percent has gone to the local healthcare system; 12 percent has been given to daycares; 11 percent to the youth and recreational parks; seven percent has gone to economic development; another seven percent to transportation; four percent has gone to arts and entertainment; while the final two percent was split between community planning, enhancement and education.
There are four major projects that the community, through public forums, has deemed priorities in Watford City. The first one is the healthcare system and emergency services. The second one is initiatives such as a community events center, improved parks, recreational and youth facilities and activities. Third on the list is to improve the Watford City Airport. And fourth on the list is to bring in more affordable housing and senior housing.
The Watford City Economic Development Cooperation welcomes all feedback and has come up with the priority list from listening to what community members have brought to their attention and expressed.
Justin Voll, a Home Rule Charter Committee member, expressed the importance of relaying correct information to the public. He said he hasn’t heard much negativity about the city sales tax.
“Looking back, it’s a success story,” Voll said.
Some of the projects that the city sales tax has help fund in the past include the healthcare development, parks and recreation, the Wild West Water Park, special events, Main Street improvements, the Connie Wold Wellness Center, new daycare facilities, the Fox Hills Golf Club-house, affordable housing, highway expansion and much more.
“If we continue to just focus on the oilfield work in the area, then we are going to lose sight of the quality of life,” McKenzie County School District No. 1 Superintendent Steve Holen said. “We don’t want to start losing families because of quality of life issues. We want to keep the families, women and children.”
The Watford City Community Events Center, a new McKenzie County Healthcare Systems replacement facility and the Watford City Airport are three big projects that are hoping to be able to approach the Roughrider Committee for funding.
At this point, no long-term Roughrider Funds have been allocated for the proposed projects. If the Home Rule Charter is amended to the 1½ percent city sales tax, then each project will have to approach the Roughrider Committee individually and ask for financial support. It is up to the committee to recommend each request for approval.
As of now, residents and non-residents are already paying the one percent Watford City city sales tax, which will end in September of 2014 unless voters pass the measure in the June 10 election. By increasing the tax to the proposed 1½ percent city sales tax, for every $500 worth of goods or services, it will only cost people $2.50 more.
Although it seems minimal, those pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters and dollars add up quick when each consumer is pitching in. The Roughrider Fund would have plenty of money to assist the Watford City community quality of life projects for the next ‘X’ amount of years. But if not, then many projects will come to a screeching halt.
The outcome is in the voters’ hands in the June 10 election.