Reitan: Changing West Fargo
Looking around West Fargo it is easy to see changes happening on nearly a daily basis. Larry Weil, West Fargo City Planner, and his staff are pouring over applications for new developments and reviewing modifications to existing business and residential development plans. According to Weil, West Fargo is on track to match or exceed record levels of construction in 2013.
The rapidly developing areas of West Fargo are a positive for the community but do require careful thought and a vision of the future as we grow. The board members serving on the City Commission, the School Board and the Park District have the difficult task of balancing the expansion of their operating budget as demands for services increase while being sensitive to the desire to not increase individual property taxes. Looking at emerging trends and past patterns gives some insight for the decision making process. As the respective boards weigh the best course of action while they move forward the final decision must be made in part upon a test of courage that they are doing the right thing.
Board members do not operate in a vacuum in the process. They listen to members of their staff, they enlist consultants and they seek input from members of the community. Public comment is received throughout the year by individuals contacting a board member to provide information or express a concern. At various times during the year a board will hold public hearings to solicit input from the public or to educate the community on an idea or plan. Additionally, during the approval of the yearly budget a series of public hearings are held during which anyone may provide their public comment.
The various city department heads have been monitoring the growth of West Fargo as well and working to determine what course of action will be necessary to maintain or improve the quality of services provided. Like their governing board, the department heads review emerging trends and past patterns. The police department uses calls for service as one indicator of growth. The department has seen an increase of 4000 calls for each of the past two years, a twenty-five percent rise over the previous year. The public works department looks at elements like the increased number of road miles added to the city that must be maintained and the addition of homes and businesses requiring trash collection. Each department must also consider the desire of the commission to maintain a hold fast or minimal rise in the mil levy rate for city services. In 2004 the mil levy rate for city services was set at 89.61. Since that time the rate has fluctuated slightly going to a high of 91.59 and a low of 88.47.
The city’s population has grown substantially since 2004 and recently more noticeably. The 2010 census placed the population at 25830 people. Estimates indicate a 6.5% rise to 27498 in 2011 and a 5.5% rise to 29000 in 2012. The cost of providing services has risen during this time period also. General fund expenditures rose from $6,868,641 in 2009 to $8,044,006 in 2012, a percentage rate change slightly lower than the population increase.
Moving forward the staff will compile the preliminary 2014 budgets during the month of May with presentations to the City Commission in the form of public hearings beginning in July. A final budget must be approved by the Commission and filed with Cass County no later than 10 October. Now is the time to contact those you elected to represent you to let them know your concerns and offer your suggestions as to how to improve services for the City of West Fargo.
Reitan is the assistant West Fargo police chief