Williston Parks and Rec goes to city for additional 1 cent sales tax; ARC executive director speaks on financial hardships

Published: May. 4, 2021 at 12:44 PM CDT
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WILLISTON, N.D. - In order to help cover expenses, the Williston Parks and Rec Board will be asking for additional tax revenue.

The board voted during an executive session April 27 to ask the city for a 1 cent sales tax increase and use of the city home rule charter. If the city were to approve, it would then go to the voters to decide.

Parks and Rec already uses a cent in sales tax, half a cent goes toward the Williston ARC’s bond, and the other toward operations. The ARC is funded through sales tax and not property tax, one of the only facilities in the nation to do so.

ARC had a challenging year in 2020.

Executive Director Darrin Krueger says they were hit with three different factors: The coronavirus pandemic forcing the facility to close for 10 weeks, the oil downturn lowering sales tax revenue, and paying last years’ state sales tax rebate credit.

Parks and Rec has been able to cover these losses with their reserves, but a slow economic recovery has resulted in a shortfall of income.

“To be able to operate this park district, we need extra revenues. The other option is to raise prices on things, and that’s not the goal,” said Krueger.

If the city were to deny the request or the public votes against the tax, Krueger says they would have to go back to the drawing board.

“The goal for the park district isn’t survival, the goal is to thrive and to continue to build the park district. We have $35 million in projects we’d love to do over the next 25 to 35 years. Just surviving isn’t the answer. We need to survive and thrive at the same time,” said Krueger.

The district has made cuts to cover expenses, including not replacing full-time employees who have left Parks and Rec since December 2019 and terminating their $100,000 cleaning contract. They are searching for eligible grants, but Krueger says they were not eligible for PPE and are not receiving any funds from the Biden Administration.

Krueger added that he, nor any staff, have taken a pay cut at this time.

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