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Campaign to promote Grand Forks sales tax set to begin

Grand Forks economic and business leaders are preparing to launch a campaign to support a half cent sales tax increase proposal, but the official push won’t begin until later this month.

Members of The Chamber and Grand Forks Region Economic Development Corp. met Tuesday at the Herald for an informational presentation on the proposed sales tax by City Administrator Todd Feland. Voters will head to the ballot in November to decide if the city needs the tax that would fund street construction and water projects.

A coalition that supports the sales tax plans to launch its campaign during the last week of September, said Chamber President and CEO Barry Wilfahrt. The Chamber and EDC are part of that group, which is expected to recruit local businesses to support the tax.

“We are going to work to get information out in terms of why the sales tax is important to support road and water infrastructure in our community,” he said. “It’s an information campaign as much as anything.”

The sales tax in Grand Forks, including the state’s share, is 6.75 percent. The proposed sales tax would bring that to 7.25 percent for 20 years and would raise $5 million in the first year.

The city asked voters during the general election in November to approve a 0.75 percent sales tax increase for infrastructure projects, but the vague language of how that would be used likely played a role in that vote’s failure, city officials have said.

Feland said he cannot promote the sales tax as a city administrator, but he can inform the public on why Mayor Mike Brown and others backed the move to put the vote on the ballot and the implications of voting yes or no on the tax.

“Part of our role in government is to inform,” Feland said.

April Baumgarten

April Baumgarten joined the Grand Forks Herald May 19, 2015, and covers business and political stories. She grew up on a ranch 10 miles southeast of Belfield, where her family continues to raise registered Hereford cattle. She double majored in communications and history/political science at Jamestown (N.D.) College, now known as University of Jamestown. During her time at the college, she worked as a reporter and editor-in-chief for the university's newspaper, The Collegian. Baumgarten previously worked for The Dickinson Press as the Dickinson city government and energy reporter in 2011 before becoming the editor of the Hazen Star and Center Republican. She then returned to The Press as a news editor, where she helped lead an award-winning newsroom in recording the historical oil boom.

Have a story idea? Contact Baumgarten at 701-780-1248.

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