The Williston Parks Board of Commissioners voted to table discussion over a proposed 1 percent sales tax increase.
The vote came during a Tuesday, July 20 regular meeting.
At the same meeting, the board also approved the 2022 preliminary budget.
The sales tax increase, which is similar to an increase that voter’s OK’d in 2011, is intended to help the park district regain financial stability.
Board President Jeff Larson said during the July 20 meeting that last week the sales tax was discussed “in depth” during a meeting with the park’s leadership team.
Darin Krueger, the executive director for the Williston Parks and Recreation District, said the leadership team meetings were held with park board commissioners and with park district staff as a way to “work on solutions” with the staff and hear what they have to say and in turn staff would hear what the board had to say about things.
During one of those meetings, Larson said it was agreed that they, the board, table discussion of the sales tax.
“And then we (can)…continue to work with the city on other solutions that we’ve been discussing in previous meetings,” he said.
Krueger said they need to take a step back.
“We’re still under financial stress, but I think working with the city is a great plan and working with our partners to see if there’s something else we can do and maybe we can come back to the (one percent) sales tax or maybe we don’t,” Krueger said.
He said right now he thinks they should table discussion over the sales tax and in the meantime “flip over some more cans to see what’s underneath them,” and see if they can come up with other solutions as a community and as a team.
Ultimately, he said they need to figure out if they can get the park district back out of the financial stress from the pandemic and the sales tax decline.
“Those two things really kind of hurt us,” Krueger said. “I think it’s a smart move at this point to just table it…We do need to find some kind of help, some kind of revenues, but for now the smart move is just to table it for a short period of time.”
This isn’t the first time Krueger has mentioned the financial bind that the pandemic created for the park district.
In a May 5 article published in the Herald, Krueger said the district’s financial woes stem from the COVID-19 pandemic, a drop in oil activity and unexpected expenses.
In the same article it states that, “the ARC was closed for 10 weeks in 2020, and sales tax figures were the second lowest since it was passed in 2011.”
In addition, the state ordered the district to pay back $2.8 million in sales tax that had been overpaid.
Krueger said during the July 20 meeting that they are still working on paying that back.
And in terms of the 2022 preliminary budget, Krueger said it’s showing a negative $1.3 million balance.
Included in that balance is the $1.1 million toward bond payments and about $932,000 that they still have to pay the state back through the deal they have with the city.
“That’s about $2 million right there,” he said. “(What) we’re using for the sales tax revenue number right now for the preliminary budget (is) the average of the last 12 months, which is $583,000. So that’s the number we’re using right now. We’re hoping, in the next few months, that that number goes up and we will be able to change our sales tax revenues to show better projections.”