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JDA sees first quarter tax receipts decline

By Sue Sitter - | Apr 24, 2021

The Rugby Job Development Authority’s new executive director attended his first regular board meeting April 14, where he reviewed tax revenue statements and discussed legal issues with members.

Karl Frigaard told board members he had spent his first week getting to know his new community.

“I’m really impressed by your Main (Avenue) area and keeping it viable in today’s online frenzy. I think customer service can win out over that frenzy but it’s got to be a full-time, full-course effort to do that,” he said, adding, “I’m impressed with your grocery store and the services here.”

Frigaard said he had spoken with business owners near the JDA office, noting local massage therapists are booked “six weeks out.”

“I’ve talked to North Dakota Housing to see some of the programs they’ve got,” Frigard said, adding, “The programs could create incentives to get people to move into town.”

We did a strategy (in the Minnesota town where he had worked before) which was called “A Step Up. It’s a program for when we got people who were close to retirement or in assisted living, it helps them move into single-level townhomes.”

In addition to inquiring about housing programs in the Rugby area and in North Dakota, Frigaard said he was interested in training and trade programs for the area.

“I talked to the (state) Department of Commerce about some of the things that are going on in the region and asked if there were others that were doing some of the same training of tradespeople (that the JDA has sponsored in the past) for specific businesses or areas,” Frigaard said, noting employees with the department told him about two programs in Devils Lake and Bismarck.

“So,” Frigaard said, “I’ve got some ideas as to what direction to take that in and start forming a plan.”

Frigaard and board members mulled bills and financial reports, which included sales tax revenue charts from 2020 and 2021.

The comparison sparked concern from board members.

March 2021’s overall tax revenues for the City of Rugby totaled $22,019.69, while March 2020 saw $47,237.80 in revenues, showing a $25,218.11 decrease in one year. The JDA’s 35 percent of the tax revenues for March 2020 totaled $16,533.23, dropping to $7706.89 in March 2021.

“If you’re just looking at the totals, not the percentages, we’re $50,000 higher a year ago for the first quarter,” said Rob St. Michel, vice chairman of the board.

Chair Blair Brattvet and board members Gary Kraft and Jodi Schaan suggested billing cycles and the number of days counted in each part of the first quarter of the fiscal year might have affected calculations.

Reviewing the financials, Brattvet said other information appeared to be in order.

“The only thing I notice is our tax collection isn’t very good,” Brattvet said.

In other business, the board voted to move $ 3,750 from the administrative budget to the director’s salary budgeted for the year.

The board also reviewed a vote by the Rugby City Council to request that the JDA consider two bids received for lawn mowing in the JDA-owned Chalmer’s Addition subdivision.

St. Michel referred to information he had received from the city council meeting, which he said he had not attended. “My understanding is that the bids, as soon as we table them, will be null and void. That was my understanding.”

Board member Susan Selensky asked whether the council’s action would force the board to open bids again.

“I believe we should seek legal counsel on this,” Schaan said.

Board members discussed how re-opening the bidding process and denying bids again would negatively impact the agency’s budget.

“If we were going to put out bids again just to formally deny them this time, it’s a waste of taxpayer money to advertise it and everything else,” Kraft said.

Board members said the lawn is currently mowed by city summer employees who do the job for less money than amounts quoted in either of the two bids they had received for the job.

The Rugby JDA operates as an arm of the City of Rugby.

The controversy began when a Chalmers Addition resident approached city officials with an offer to mow the lawn. To follow state and local laws, the JDA initiated the bidding process.

“In fairness to the bidders, I guess instead of tabling the bids, we could have rejected them, but we didn’t have all the information there on how much it was costing us and was the service we were getting before (comparable),” St. Michel said.

Kraft said, “At the (council) meeting, the discussion was, is this (bidding process) following the Century Code? I don’t know if the city council has the authority to say, ‘You’re going to re-bid it.'”

Schaan agreed. “Because technically, if you get back bids and they’re higher than what our budget is, the city already dictates we can’t switch (the bid amounts) with what we have in our budget, so they put us in a no-win situation.”

“To me, we’re the ones responsible for our budget,” Schaan added.

The board agreed to review their budget to see if they had funds to hire an attorney to give advice on the mowing issue.

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