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City voters weigh in on sales tax measure; headed towards defeat

As of 10 p.m. the ballot measure to raise the Grand Forks city sales tax from 1.75 to 2.5 percent apparently will not receive enough votes to pass. With just shy of 10,000 total votes counted from 14 of the 19 city precincts, the the tally in sup...

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As of 10 p.m. the ballot measure to raise the Grand Forks city sales tax from 1.75 to 2.5 percent apparently will not receive enough votes to pass.

With just shy of 10,000 total votes counted from 14 of the 19 city precincts, the the tally in support of the measure is weighing in at approximately 4,000 votes, or 40 percent.

The measure needs a simple majority to pass.

If approved, the tax bump would fund local infrastructure projects, including major installations such as the new water treatment plant and a possible Interstate 29 interchange. The tax would go into effect in April and would be expected to initially yield $7.75 million in annual city revenue.

With the state sales tax taken into account, the city increase would lift the local effective tax rate paid at the till by Grand Forks consumers to a total of 7.5 percent.

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However, City Administrator Todd Feland said it appeared as of 10 p.m. the measure was not going to pass.

The local Chamber of Commerce and the Grand Forks Region EDC Board of Directors both have endorsed the measure, as has the Greater Grand Forks Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Grand Forks Mayor Mike Brown also has spoken in support of the measure, describing it to the Herald Editorial Board in late October as a vote for the community to "choose its future."

City leaders have said the failure of the measure could result in a sharp increase of water rates. If the tax doesn't pass, advocates say necessary infrastructure projects-such as the new water treatment plant and the Red River Valley Water Supply Project drought-contingency pipeline-could put the city in a tougher financial spot.

City water customers may then expect to see the difference made up in their water bills. That cost already was likely to rise about 2 percent over the next four years. Feland has said the rate could jump an additional 40 percent by 2022 if the city sales tax increase does not pass. Though the water systems will be built regardless of the measure's outcome, he said the sales tax's failure could prompt city leaders to examine other tax increases or special assessments for other projects.

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