MINOT – City Council President Paul Pitner’s letter to fellow council members did not go over well with city residents who voiced their opposition during Tuesday’s council meeting. Pitner wrote the letter of recommendation on the 2024 city budget.
Among the issues that stirred emotions was Pitner’s proposal to direct city staff to “bring forth details on proposing to voters a ½ cent public safety sales tax” and his expressed opposition to abolishing property taxes. A movement is currently underway to collect enough signatures to put such a measure on the statewide ballot in June 2024.
In his appearance before the council, Travis Zablotney, Minot, asked Pitner if he had read the petition regarding abolishing property taxes. Pitner acknowledged that he had not read it.
“You don’t even know what it says, yet you are trying to advise the council how to respond to it,” said Zablotney. “Another issue, nowhere in your letter to the council have you made any recommendation to the council for the reduction of property tax or spending. It’s all about more spending. It’s all about more taxes, more government.”
Larry Bellew, Minot, also spoke to the council, saying, “I wasn’t going to appear before the council until I read the president’s letter. I’m opposed to the budget you have brought forth. City taxes are going to be raised by 6.75%. Your total budget is increasing by 9.31%. This is totally unacceptable. My home valuation went up $38,000 in two years and I haven’t made an improvement. Citizens of this city can’t afford any more taxes. I am a senior citizen on a fixed income. I can’t afford it. Where do I, and people like me, get the money to pay these taxes?”
Minot resident Mike Blessum took issue with city officials commenting on the movement to abolish property taxes while “in your official stature.”
“Placing your hand on the scale does Minot citizens a disservice, especially when you don’t have your facts straight,” said Blessum. “Fear mongering from elected officials, that citizens should fear this is unwarranted and shouldn’t happen.”
Pitner offered a defense for his proposal to consider a ½ cent increase in sales tax to help fund the Minot Police Department.
“It is very expensive to provide police and fire to our community. It is. It’s our largest expense,” said Pitner. “When my house starts on fire and I call 911, I want someone to answer. When my street needs to be cleaned, I want someone to answer.”