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Orchard City trustees discuss ballot language

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The first meeting of 2018 of the Orchard City Board of Trustees was held on Jan. 3. All trustees, town administrator Melissa Oelke and town attorney Jeff Hurd were present. Three constituents, Doug Keller, Jack Ditlove and Mary Ditlove, also attended the workshop. The ballot proposals for the April election were discussed, with each trustee receiving a draft of the proposed language that will appear on the ballot. The ballot questions will be presented to the trustees for approval at their regular meeting Jan. 10.

If approved, a municipal sales tax of 3 percent, with some exemptions, would go into effect in July 2018. Funds would be designated for public works and law enforcement needs. Business licenses are not required, but would be beneficial to keep track of revenue. The state Department of Revenue would collect the sales tax. The town estimates $65,000 would be collected during the last half of the year. Orchard City could collect use tax on building materials delivered from outside of the town.

A second question addresses the taxation of marijuana, if marijuana sales are authorized by the municipality in the future. The ballot issue would provide a means of collection, licensing and distribution of the collected fees only if marijuana sales are approved by the municipality. Taxation could include a special marijuana tax of up to 5 percent on retail sales, an excise tax of up to 5 percent on unprocessed retail marijuana, and a $10 occupation tax (transaction fee) on medical facilities for each sales transaction by any medical or retail marijuana establishment. Funds are designated for public health and safety, including road construction and law enforcement services.

The third question asks electors to approve a mill levy of 6.5 mills, with the funds again going to road construction and law enforcement services. The mill levy would generate an estimated $130,000 annually.

Town hall meetings will be scheduled to address questions about the ballot issues.

Trustee Gary Tollefson raised the issue of fund reserves. Currently, Orchard City has around $500,000 in reserve. With six bridges within town limits with an estimated replacement cost of $750,000 per bridge, he asked if the reserve is sufficient in the case of an emergency without taking revenues from other funds. The trustees will research reserve vs. worst case scenarios. The discussion was tabled until after the April election.

The board will also review the floodplain regulations on building permits. This matter will be presented as an ordinance to be considered at the Jan. 10 meeting.

Mayor Ken Volgamore normally designates trustees to town committees in January. With the upcoming election in April, he asked if the trustees would remain on their current committees until after the election. The trustees agreed to the request.

The next trustees meeting will be Jan. 10 at 7 p.m.

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Surface Creek
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