A new 1 cent city sales tax was contemplated by the Bismarck City Commission Tuesday to pay for $227 million in new roads needed in the next 10 years. Commissioners directed staff to draft a proposal for a possible future vote by residents.

Mayor Mike Seminary said the city's existing 1 cent sales tax now pays down 25 mills in property tax, lowers special assessments, provides snow gates and repairs existing roads. The new sales tax would be projected to raise $17 million as does the existing.

"Should voters approve that, we would use them for roads and roads only," he said. "In the next 10 years, we are going to spend $227 million on new roads. That's on top of property tax relief. That's on top of special assessment relief and as we continue to repair every year $10 million to $12 million of roads." 

Commissioner Steve Marquardt expressed reservations. "Just recently, we passed a $35 million TIF district that could handle this in the general fund. The sales tax would take care of the roads, but in hindsight, we have to keep that in mind."

Seminary said they were separate issues.

Commissioner Parrell Grossman said the city would either need a sales tax to provide the road needs or a property tax, and didn't feel a property tax would set well with residents.

Seminary reasoned Bismarck had the lowest local sales tax. He reasoned that Bismarck residents wanted to continue the buy-down of the property tax with the existing sales tax.

He added that the total capital improvement plan amounts to a half billion dollars.

"I don't know how we stay in this growing environment and provide all that we provide in the city without raising some form of revenue. I believe sales tax is the fairest and most appropriate way," Seminary said.

He said there could be a possible vote in June on a new sales tax if commissioners decide to place it on the ballot.

(Reach LeAnn Eckroth at 701-250-8264 or leann.eckroth@bismarcktribune.com)

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