RALPH KINGSBURY: Mild news is good news in this day and age
This month, I have made some changes in the way this column presents statistics. There are a couple of reasons for this. For example: Except for the grand totals in the building permit report for the city, I am showing the number of permits rathe...
This month, I have made some changes in the way this column presents statistics.
There are a couple of reasons for this.
For example: Except for the grand totals in the building permit report for the city, I am showing the number of permits rather than the dollar amounts. Dollar amounts have their value to be sure, but so do the number of permits.
For instance, in one year in the commercial category, there could be one or two huge projects that might distort the conclusions. A good example would be when the Ralph Engelstad Arena and Canad Inns hotel were built.
It is best to review both the dollar amounts and the number of projects throughout the year, as I am doing this month.
The other change is that I have presented some statewide data that I don't cover on a regular basis. I do this so readers can see at least some of the data that lawmakers will need to look at when they are in Bismarck this winter -- and please remember, this is a very small portion of what they will have to consider.
Even in a small state of very limited numbers of social and economic categories as North Dakota, the legislators' job is both complex and difficult.
But make no mistake, constituent knowledge presented in a respectful and polite manner can have a great deal of influence on legislators. So, throughout the session, I will be presenting other data when I can on a timely basis.
Also, if you are having trouble finding data, please contact me. I would be happy to try to help you. I can't make any promises, but I do know that the state government does an excellent job of gathering and presenting a wide range of data. I have also found nearly every state employee very helpful in assisting me in any effort.
Other sources also are available. Google is your friend.
So, what do the tables for this month show us?
Well, beginning on the local level, construction slowed by about 10 percent. Of course, there is still a month to go in the year; but unless the Grand Forks Park Board takes out a sizable share of its construction permit value for its new building, I don't expect the month left to let us catch up.
Probably the single biggest reason for the slowdown is in the single-family dwelling category, and that is because of the expiration of the federal tax credit. It's a good example of one level of government influencing what happens in another level.
City sales tax collections also slowed last month, but the 12-month rolling average increase of more than 4 percent still is a good increase.
I did not include the 3 percent motel assessment this month because three motels did not make their payments. We know from the paper that two of them are in financial difficulties; I am not sure why the third motel's payment was late.
The motel assessment is applied against the guest. That means the motel already has collected the money and is to pass it through to the city and then the Convention and Visitors Bureau. We will have to decide how to make our comparisons if they don't pass it through.
Border crossings, airline boardings and unemployment rates continue to improve. Interestingly, as we again look at North Dakota communities such as Fargo, Jamestown and Wahpeton that lack some of our advantages such as proximity to Canada, we continue to see some downturns.
Fortunately, the downturns are not too large. We have to remember that those towns contribute huge amounts to the state treasury.
Speaking of the state treasury and as we approach the end of the biennium, we can conclude that Economy.com has done an excellent job of predicting North Dakota's revenues.
Our state budget should be in excellent shape for planning the next biennium, and unless the federal government does something to destroy the agricultural and energy sectors, we should be able to plan on another great two years. That is, if we don't spend too much.
Reach Kingsbury at firstname.lastname@example.org or (701) 738-4810.