Posted 5/30/18 (Wed)
By Neal A. Shipman
Voters in McKenzie County and Watford City will be asked to decide the fate of two ballot issues, one creating a rural ambulance taxing district for the McKenzie County Ambulance Service, and the second, removing the $25 sales tax cap on Watford City’s sales tax, in this year’s June 12 election.
As I have done in the past, in this week’s column, I will try to explain these two measures and why, I believe, they deserve the support of the voters.
Rural Ambulance District Measure #1
This measure would create a special taxing district for the McKenzie County Ambulance Service and will be voted on only by county residents who reside within the ambulance’s service district. As such, county voters who are served by ambulance services from Fairview, Williston, Sidney, Beach, Killdeer, New Town, and Mandaree will not be voting on this ballot issue.
For the past several years, the McKenzie County Ambulance Service has been losing money for a variety of reasons. These reasons include the fact that Medicare and insurance companies don’t reimburse the ambulance service the full cost of transporting a patient to the McKenzie County Hospital or to other hospitals, as well as the loss of revenue from building permit fees from the city of Watford City and fewer state grants being available. Nor does the ambulance service receive any reimbursement for the costs that they incur when they respond to false calls. And those losses, which amounted to over $170,000 this past year, have put the ambulance service in a financial bind.
While in the past, the McKenzie County Board of County Commissioners have assisted the ambulance service in covering their annual losses, from the ambulance service’s perspective, this is not an ideal business model. It is difficult, if not impossible for the ambulance service to budget for new equipment, training, or the purchase of replacement ambulances when its revenue stream is uncertain.
What the passage of this measure would accomplish is to create a special taxing district for the McKenzie County Ambulance Service and allow them to levy a tax of not to exceed 10 mills to balance their budget without having to ask the county commissioners for financial assistance each year there is a deficit.
While most people don’t like to pay more property taxes, this is one area that everyone with the McKenzie County Ambulance Service’s service area should want to support. We want to know that when we have an emergency, an ambulance will arrive with highly trained responders in vehicles that are equipped to professionally care for us while being transported to a hospital.
The passage of Rural Ambulance District Measure #1 will ensure that.
I encourage a “Yes” vote on this measure.
Watford City Measure #1 - Removing $25 Sales Tax Cap
This measure, which will only be voted on by Watford City voters, will remove the $25 sales tax cap on Watford City’s sales tax.
The city sales tax, which is managed by the Roughrider Fund Committee, is used by the city to help fund economic development efforts in the community as well has been the major funding source for many of the city’s infrastructure projects and is helping fund the construction of the new healthcare system facility and the operation of the Rough Rider Center.
Without a doubt, the city’s sales tax has been a catalyst for virtually every city improvement within Watford City since the fund was created. It has been used to help improve the quality of life of everyone who lives and visits the community.
When the sales tax was first created, a $25 maximum city sales tax was placed on any single purchase. But that cap is now having a serious impact on the ability of the Roughrider Fund to continue to grow to meet the demand for new projects.
Virtually every city in North Dakota that has had a city sales tax cap has removed it. It is time for Watford City to do the same.
I encourage Watford City voters to vote “Yes” on this measure.