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101 1st St NE
Box 12
Bowman, ND 58623-0012

Bowman voters oppose city sales tax measure

November 08, 2014

The John and Jean Rouzie Poll and Recreation Complex needs updates in Bowman. [FIle photo by Bryce Martin | Pioneer] By BRYCE MARTIN | Pioneer Editor |


The only ballot measure facing the city of Bowman was voted down in this week’s general election, which could put the status of a new community recreation center on hold indefinitely.

Bowman City Measure 1, which if approved would have increased city sales tax by 1 percent for the operation of an expanded Rouzie Recreation Complex, failed to amass enough support in the Nov. 4 election, with 64.85 percent—or 452 votes—of city residents voting against the measure.

Only 245 votes, or 35.15 percent, voted in support of passing the measure.

“We know that good things do not always happen right away. This outcome and the feedback we receive from the residents of Bowman will help us move forward with this project so it enhances our quality of life and is welcomed by our community,” Chanell Walby told the Pioneer on Wednesday. Walby is the director of the Bowman Parks and Recreation Dept. and championed for community support of the measure.

When news broke of the measure’s defeat, people took to Facebook to express their disappointment.

“This makes me sad,” Chrissy Blankenbaker of Bowman wrote on the Pioneer’s Facebook page. “However, we have to keep in mind cities like Dickinson and Williston didn’t get theirs approved the first time on the ballot either.”

Jennifer Jahner of Bowman agreed.

“This is disheartening to me,” Jahner wrote. “Anyone who wants to hear the need and benefit of an indoor pool for therapy reasons can sure contact me before the next time this is on the ballot.”

Walby and Friends of the Bowman Parks and Recreation Department, a group created to assist with creation of the center, presented Bowman city commissioners earlier this year with a draft of the ballot issue that called for the increase to the city’s existing six percent sales tax. The commissioners gave them their blessing to place it on the ballot.

The department was to allocate the collected funds from the increased tax to help operating costs of the expanded recreation center.

Without the increased sales tax, the project would be disbanded, Walby told commissioners during the meeting.

“We believe the rec center expansion project will be an attraction for families to move to the Bowman area. When families move here, so do potential employees,” Walby said earlier this year. The recreation center expansion undoubtedly is a project that’s rooted in strengthening and supporting the community.

Now it is a project that could be shelved.

As Teran Doerr, executive director of the Bowman County Development Corp., explained, a new community recreation center would advocate a greater quality of life and help to recruit additional workers and residents to the area.

Despite the sales tax being only applicable to the city of Bowman, many people from the immediate, surrounding areas and beyond travel to the city on a daily basis to purchase goods and services. The tax would have directly affected them, but they could not vote on the measure unless they resided within city limits.

“I wish it could be different,” said Lyn James, Bowman City Commission president.

The city of Bowman has a home rule charter, which allows the board to offer up for a public vote items such as increasing sales tax. To change the charter would take a vote of the people, but James said she felt uncomfortable making amendments to the charter.

Pages and pages of text from the North Dakota State Tax Commission dictated what items can and cannot be taxed. Services generally are not subject to tax, but there includes many exceptions. Groceries, for the most part, also are not taxed. Still, there exist more exceptions. Sales tax is not collected on gas, water, prescription medication, automobiles, school related expenses, tickets for entertainment, fertilizer sold to farmers or farm machinery and equipment.

There is a cap on sales tax that means no person can pay more than $25 in tax. So, for a large-dollar transaction, the tax cannot exceed $25.

“I believe that we would still be well within an average across the state if we raised it another one percent,” Doerr said. “As a community, we want to be careful not to [overtax] our citizens; I think that’s important to always consider that.”

Bowman’s current city sales tax amounts to six percent, placed on certain goods and services within city limits. Five percent of that is set as a base by the state. The other one percent is made available to Southwest Healthcare Services in Bowman, earmarked for community health care.