How this county measure we voted 'no' on could end up costing us more

(Valley News Live) - The day after elections took place, we’re taking a look at what we voted for. One Cass County measure that failed to increase the sales tax one-half percent could end up costing taxpayers more.

Cass County Measure 1 would have increased the sales tax for a new emergency communication system. We as a county voted no on that one. But here's how it may end up costing us instead in property tax:

County officials say getting a new state emergency radio system is nonnegotiable.

"This system is being phased out,” Cass County sheriff, Paul Laney, said. “...and we've been planning for three or four years knowing it was coming...it's our radio system, it's how we communicate...emergency responder to emergency responder, so it's something we must have."
Cass County commissioner, Chad Peterson, says for the past six years, an approximately $150 million initiative to change the radio system statewide failed to make it through legislation.

That's why it was on Tuesday's ballot as a county measure to pay for it in sales tax—where it would cost $15 million for Cass County alone.

"Funded by a lot of our visitors and friends that come here for everything from work, to entertainment, medical services," Peterson said.

In other words, had we voted yes on the measure, the cost would have been spread out enough that it would only take us about a year to pay off the new system.

But Peterson says since we voted no, instead he believes, we'll end up paying for it in property tax.

"That means it's gonna be roughly 5 mills of property taxes on every home, on every commercial property in Cass County for the next five years," Peterson said.
So how much will this cost you as a homeowner? Five mills of property tax is roughly $20 on every $100,000 of your house—meaning for an average homeowner with a house worth around $250,000, it's about $50 extra per year.

Peterson says the county commission set the budget that way, in anticipation the measure didn’t pass. He says Tuesday's vote was less of a yes or no—and more of a ‘how are we funding it?’

"We have to have 911 services,” he said. “The radios have to work. If you call 911, the police had better show up."

Peterson says you're still able to reach out to the state legislators in Bismarck to ask them to find a statewide solution, if you're against paying this extra property tax.

And here's an update on a couple statewide measures that did pass:

Legislators will now have to go through each measure to work out the official language, as well as the costs. Statewide Measure 1, which would create an ethics commission, is looking to cost less than $200,000.

And Measure 4, which would provide free personalized license plates to volunteer emergency responders, could cost $1 million to $5 million.