Student Senate, weekly breakdown

During last week’s student senate meeting, city of Grand Forks administrators Todd Palen and Pete Haga  were featured as guest speakers to talk about a proposed sales tax increase in Grand Forks.

On November 8, there will be a ballot measure to increase sales tax in Grand Forks by .75 percent (3/4 of a percent). The money will mostly be used to improve current infrastructure as well as water system improvements.

If passed, the increase in sales tax will bring in an additional $7.75 million to the area.

Grand Forks is not the only city in the area proposing tax increases, Bismarck is also exploring a 1 percent sales tax increase to fund road infrastructure.

“Our biggest concern is that if we don’t get a new sales tax in place, we will have to tell people we can’t get the projects or improvements done that the city really needs,” Palen says.

Some of the big projects the administrators are looking at include moving the water treatment plant, improving road infrastructure (including upgrading various intersections and possibly building an underpass to re-route heavily trafficked areas), and also improving the mechanisms of sewage collection and treatment.

As far as infrastructure goes, according to the city of Grand Forks, the most common complaint people made was street maintenance. Because of this, city officials are planning to use $1.3 million from the tax increase to use as more street maintenance.

Street maintenance includes capital maintenance such as major rehabilitation and road reconstruction, as well as routine maintenance such as intersection upgrades, street repair, and traffic signals.

There is also talk about rerouting the Missouri River water supply north to supply Grand Forks, bringing more water to the Red River Valley to help in times on drought.

“If we had a drought of a 1930s era depression we’d have a $2 billion impact a year on the state of North Dakota. It would really hurt the economy in the Red River Valley,” Palen says.

But sales tax is harder on students than many other residents of Grand Forks. Many students are continuously tight on cash and are temporary visitors, not permanent residents. Palen emphasizes that UND students are a very important part of Grand Forks.

“It is important that you guys engage that you are part of the community whether you move on or stay with us,” Palen says.

Journey Gontjes is a staff writer for The Dakota Student. She can be reached at [email protected]