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Posted 1/20/10 (Wed)

By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor

How many of us at the end of the day toss our loose change into a plastic bag or a can? Daily we keep repeating the same process simply acknowledging the fact that we aren’t going to pack around a bunch of pennies or loose change. And once our bag or can is full of those pennies or other loose change we head down to the bank where we are often very surprised at how much “real” money all those pennies have turned into.
The same process of collecting those pennies is making a big difference in Watford City when it comes to the one percent Watford City sales tax, which funds the Roughrider Fund, and the city’s two percent occupancy tax on motel rooms, which funds the Lodging Tax Fund.
Thanks to a robust economy the last two years, receipts into both of these funds have skyrocketed. Consider if you will, five years ago, the Roughrider Fund collected just over $139,000 that could be used towards economic development in the Watford City area. And back in 2005, the Lodging Tax Fund raised just under $10,500 for the promotion of tourism activities in the area from its small tax on people staying in our city’s motels.
Now compare those numbers to the 2009 receipts which saw the Roughrider Funds annual take grow to just shy of $272,000 and the Lodging Tax Fund taking in just under $26,200.
Pretty impressive growth in revenue. But more important than the growth in the funds, is how these two funds plow 100 percent of their receipts right back into promoting and helping expand our local economy. It could be the Roughrider Fund providing financial incentives to businesses wanting to set up shop in Watford City or for existing local businesses that want to improve or expand their operations. Or it could be the Lodging Tax Fund paying for brochures promoting the city, helping the McKenzie County Tourism Bureau buy ads in regional tourism publications, providing advertising dollars for the Wild West Water Park, the NDRA Championship Finals Rodeo or the Chamber of Commerce’s Ribfest and Homefest activities.
The bottom line is that these two funds have done some pretty big things for our community over the years both in the way of economic development and in tourism promotion. Through the prudent use of the Roughrider Fund and the Lodging Tax Fund, Watford City has been able to build its reputation as a good community to live and do business in, and as a great place to visit and take in all that our county has to offer in the way of recreation and tourism opportunities.
Those pennies being collected each and every day through our city sales tax and the lodging tax are making a big difference.