The result of a special election that would have allowed the city of Bismarck to finance other capital projects with excess revenues from taxes dedicated to debt service on a $17 million certificates of participation issue has been called into question.
The secretary of state's office determined last week that the city did not comply with a state law requiring that notice of a special election be published 60 days before it is to take place.
The city published notice of the election on July 25, only 12 days before the Aug. 6 special election, explained Tom Mattern, elections administrator in the secretary of state's office.
Bismarck voters approved 4,067 to 1,557 an amendment to the city's home-rule charter that would allow the city to use surplus revenues raised from three taxes dedicated to paying debt service on the certificates of deposit issued in 1987.
Grant Bergquist, the city's auditor, explained that the three taxes -- a 1-cent sales tax, a 1-cent lodging tax, and a 1-cent restaurant tax -- raise $5.15 million a year, $3.15 million more than needed to pay the $2 million annual debt service on the certificates.
The Board of Commissioners is allowed to dedicate a portion of the excess revenues to property tax relief, but it sought voter approval to use some of the revenues to fund additional capital improvements in the city, Mr. Bergquist said.
But some citizens opposed to the idea filed a protest last month with the secretary of state's office, which determined that the 60-day election notice provision had been violated, Mr. Mattern said. He added, however, that it is unclear whether the notice violation will result in the election being voided.
"At this point, we don't know what the consequences are for the violation," Mr. Mattern said. "There does not appear to be any provisions in the law for penalties. We plan to ask the state attorney general's office for an opinion."
Mr. Bergquist said that until the matter is resolved, the city will place in reserve all the money raised from the taxes that is not needed for debt service.