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Fund ITT spends millionth city sales tax dollar since 1993

After 15 years of sales tax collections and making grants, interest buy-downs and loans to various projects and businesses in Kenmare, the Fund ITT Committee crossed the million dollar threshold last month.

12/30/09 (Wed)


After 15 years of sales tax collections and making grants, interest buy-downs and loans to various projects and businesses in Kenmare, the Fund ITT Committee crossed the million dollar threshold last month.


“We passed $1 million in November, with the $60,000 payment for the new fire hall,” said Ken Barnhart, treasurer for the committee. “That was the big one that put us over.”


Actually, including the $1,350 paid in December to assist the Association of Commerce with the creation of a musical advertising jingle for Kenmare, a total of $1,012,144.28 has been committed through Fund ITT. “I noticed it when my spreadsheet wasn’t wide enough for all the digits!” Barnhart said.


Fund ITT was launched in 1993, after voters in the community passed an additional one-cent sales tax that would be used, in part, to fund community development projects. “There were no payments that year,” said Barnhart. “We started in 1994, with payments of $30,300. Then $15,700 the next year, and it just kept increasing.”


Payments during the first year went to Incabar USA for startup costs, the Kenmare Community Development Corporation for remodeling the Gooseneck Implement building, North Dakota Envelope Company and Central Automotive for interest rate buydowns, and the Sherwood Area Development Corporation for a market research grant.


2009 has been Fund ITT’s most generous year, with $134,864.02 made in payments. “Without the donation to the fire hall, this year would be average,” said Barnhart. Total annual payments have ranged from $15,700 to this year’s high, with an average of $67,500 spent on projects each year.


According to Barnhart, Fund ITT receives approximately three-eighths of the 2 percent sales tax charged by the city of Kenmare. In 1993, that collection amounted to $34,481.04, with the amount showing a general increase over the years.


In 2008, taxable sales in Kenmare stood at the highest level in the 15 years of Fund ITT’s operation, with $260,732.12 collected and Fund ITT receiving $97,774.55. As of November 30th, Fund ITT had collected $87,181.71 this year to spend on projects.


The total tax revenue to Fund ITT over 15 years stands at $988,188.22, a bit short of the million dollars made in payments. Barnhart laughed as he explained the difference. “We’ve also earned tons and tons of interest,” he said, adding that the committee has money invested locally in CDs and interest-bearing checking accounts. “And we’ve still got plenty to operate on.”


The current balance for Fund ITT is $138,000, with Barnhart projecting a year-end balance between $145,000 and $150,000. “The tax history is interesting, with the revenue going up and down, based on the monthly sales,” he said. “There may be an economic downturn, but not according to the taxable sales in this town.”


Fund ITT members hope to see some of that money going to property owners within the Kenmare city limits to demolish old, unsafe or abandoned buildings. The city has agreed to pay property owners up to $3500 to assist with demolition and hauling costs in order to clean up unsightly residential areas and prepare lots around town for new construction.


“We’ve been kicking that idea around for a while,” said Barnhart. “We know it will help the town and we’re sure it will help the individuals some, to put that property back into use.”


Of course, Fund ITT will continue to offer interest buydowns and its popular matching grant program. “If owners want to do something to beautify their building or property, we’ll match up to $1500 of the costs,” Barnhart said. “2009 has been one of the bigger years for that.”


In fact, 12 local entities took advantage of the matching grant opportunity this year, including Town & Country Credit Union, Kenmare Floral, Ying Bin Restaurant, Kenmare Wheels & Meals, the Kenmare Airport Authority, Choo Choo Cafe, Kenmare Dental, C&L Building, Wild Styles Salon, Rylander Day Care, Gartner’s Jack & Jill and the City of Kenmare for the Memorial Hall.


The Fund ITT committee was organized in August 1993, under former Kenmare mayor Jim Grueneich and the official title “Investing Today for Tomorrow.” The program is intended to provide financing incentives to businesses that desire to locate or expand in the city of Kenmare, with the fund’s primary functions serving to create new jobs, save existing jobs, expand the local tax base, increase capital investment, improve the entrepreneurial climate of the area and expand the primary sector financial base. Occasionally, requests by non-profit organizations are considered, but most of the assistance is made to private enterprise.


The committee itself is appointed by the mayor, with approval from the city council, and all Fund ITT recommendations are reviewed and granted approval by the city council. “Some companies don’t make it, some do,” said Barnhart. “Sometimes it’s hard, when we have to turn people down if their idea doesn’t fit the parameters. But we’ve got to follow the program guidelines.”


Persons interested in support from Fund ITT should be prepared to submit a written proposal that describes the project. Anyone who wants further information about Fund ITT or the application process is welcome to contact the committee members, including chairman Larry Melgaard, secretary and charter member Terry Froseth, treasurer Ken Barnhart, Penny Sigloh, or charter members Bob Mau and Ron Wirtz.


Barnhart noted the influence of Fund ITT extends around town, including the swimming pool, Kenmare Country Club, Pioneer Village, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the Park Board, Kenmare Theatre, Kenmare Community Hospital, the Kenmare Sports Complex, Lakeview Art Club, GooseFest, the After School Enrichment program, Kenmare Lions Club for the purchase of the “Welcome to Kenmare” signs, and most of the businesses.


“When I drive around town, I see things and think, ‘I helped with that, and I helped with that,’” said Barnhart. “But really, we’ve all helped with those projects!”