February 18, 2015

Home Rule Charter proposed for Center

By Annette Tait
Months of research and discussion were brought to closer to a close last week when the Home Rule Charter Committee presented its findings at a public hearing held Feb. 5 at the Betty Hagel Memorial Civic Center. The public hearing was the last step for the committee before presenting the charter to the city council for acceptance. The final step, upon acceptance by the city, will be a majority vote by city residents in favor of the charter’s adoption.
Committee Chair Deb Clarys and committee members Alice Dilger, Sharon Rud, Sharon Anderson, Charmayne Leinius and Bill Fay have been researching home rule for the last year. After serving for the majority of the effort, Rud recently resigned due to other commitments. J.D. Hanson also served on the committee but resigned after his election to the city council, and the late John Green served until his passing.
The committee schedule the public hearing to distribute copies of the proposed charter, provide information about home rule and what it would mean to the city, and answer any questions attendees might have. About a dozen people were present and, even with the low turn-out, a spirited discussion of the pros and cons ensued.
Primarily, audience members wanted to know why the city was considering home rule, and what powers and/or authority would be involved.
Clarys explained that having a home rule charter provides the city with a means to increase revenue to pay for essential city projects -- like systematic replacement of the aging sewer and water systems, and street repairs -- through a city sales tax.
“We could have a real estate tax and do it that way, or we can add this tax and raise money from people from out-of-town who spend here,” Clarys said, “It’s an opportunity for us to get a lot of money from outside sources, not just from [city] taxpayers.”
Clarys noted that all of the neighboring towns around Center pay a 2 percent sales tax except Hazen, where the city sales tax is 1.5 percent.
“You can go somewhere else, but you’re giving them the 2 percent [instead of Center],” she said, noting that even in Bismarck-Mandan, the city and the county taxes still add up to 2 percent.

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