In a column today Minot Daily News editor Dave Rupkalvis writes about his change in attitude about a massive recreation center project Minot voters will be casting their ballots on this month.
Rupkalvis has a unique perspective on the project. Previously he lived and worked in Williston where voters approved a similar facility. He initially opposed that facility, but was later convinced that it was a good idea after it had been built.
He thinks Minot could have a similar successful experience.
The problem is, I don’t think Rupkalvis is making a good comparison for a couple of reasons.
First, while Minot citizens have been treated to some glowing profiles of the Williston rec center (built by the same company that would build Minot’s facility), it’s not at all clear that it will be sustainable long term. The realities of falling oil prices haven’t yet hit Williston.
“The ARC changed Williston, but it didn’t hurt it,” writes Rupkalvis. “One of my big concerns is the existing workout centers would be run out of business. But they are still there, they are still doing well.”
[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#000000″ txt_color=”#ffffff”]If Minot voters approve their own facility, agreeing to a one percent hike in the local sales tax, Minot shoppers will be paying a tax rate that’s 20 percent higher than Williston’s.[/mks_pullquote]
I’d be very surprised if that were still true in a year or two. Williston’s rec center was justified by a boom time economy. But the boom was never going to be the new normal. As things tighten the ARC (as the facility in Williston is called) will probably survive given that it is a government-backed enterprise.
The private competitors will have a tougher go of it.
The other problem with the comparison is that Williston’s tax situation is not the same as Minot’s. Even with the sales tax hike that community used to pay for their facility their rate (7 percent) is still below where Minot’s is currently (7.5 percent).
If Minot voters approve their own facility, agreeing to a one percent hike in the local sales tax, Minot shoppers will be paying a tax rate that’s 20 percent higher than Williston’s.
Thus, comparing the decision that is before Minot’s voters to what Williston went through is more than a little specious.
Williston is not and has never been the sort of hub for commerce in the region that Minot is. And whatever else one might say about Williston’s decision to build their rec center, they had a much lower sales tax going in leaving them space for increases that Minot simply does not have.
Sending Minot’s sales taxes to the highest level in the state at a time when lower oil prices and some tough times for agriculture are already going to be slowing commerce for our region is a bad idea.