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West Fargo voters approve sales tax hike

WEST FARGO – The sales tax here will soon be the same rate as in Fargo after voters approved a 1 percent sales tax increase on Monday.

In complete but unofficial results, two tax measures were approved by 59 percent, with 41 percent voting no to both questions.  

To approve the increase, voters had to say “yes” to two questions. The first asked for a change in city charter to allow the increase in sales tax from 1 percent to 2 percent. The second question on voters’ ballots created an ordinance setting the sales tax.

“I’m pretty happy with that – about 60 percent voted for it, so that’s pretty good,” said City Administrator Jim Brownlee.

A simple majority of both questions was needed to pass the increase.

The first question passed with 1,003 voting yes and 708 voting “no.”

The second question also passed with 1,008 voting “yes” and 695 voting “no.”

“I’m just happy it carried,” Brownlee said. “We just put out a lot of information on it. We didn’t have any organized groups for or against it.”

Brownlee said the tax will be implemented in about 90 days after legal notices are given to retailers and state agencies.

 City officials took the increase to voters after identifying about 60 infrastructure projects totaling more than $124 million across the entire city over the next 20 years.

The list of projects that the measure will pay for does not include a new water treatment facility or community facilities such as an aquatic center. Instead, the projects include road improvements, new water towers in the southern part of town and lagoon improvements.

Brownlee said the projects are those that the city has plans for and projects that “must be done.”

The city plans to begin building a new water tower near Veterans Boulevard and 32nd Avenue East this summer.

In the next five years, it also plans to install a $300,000 traffic light at Veterans Boulevard and 26th Avenue East, add a $1.5 million storm sewer repair project in Elmwood Park and install a new water well near Veterans Boulevard and 40th Avenue East.

The city already charges a 1 percent sales tax. The money from that tax can be used for both infrastructure and economic development but the increase sent to voters on Tuesday can only be used for infrastructure projects, Brownlee said.

The 1 percent sales tax hike can bring in about $3 million each year, a figure Mayor Rich Mattern has called very conservative.

Mattern said the sales tax could bring in up to $80 million over the next 20 years.

The increase will cause West Fargo taxes to rise from 6.5 percent to 7.5 percent, a rate that includes sales tax and is equal to Fargo.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Wendy Reuer at (701) 241-5530