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Mill levy to increase 2.99; City Commission adopts 2010 preliminary budget

West Fargo City Commissioners adopted the preliminary budget for the year 2010 Monday night, with expenditures totaling $31,812,975, the maximum amount the city can spend, and set a public hearing date to accept the final plan. If approved, the figures will bring the city mill levy to 91.46 equating to a 2.99 mill increase over last year. At $4.50 per mill based on taxable evaluation, this will result in an additional $13.50 in taxes per year on a $100,000 home.

The budget includes a 2 percent cost of living increase for all city employees and a step, two steps or no steps for eligible employees as rated by evaluations. The budget also reflects a 20.5 percent increase in health insurance rates.

Striving to be conservative in their actions, city officials wanted to keep the mill increase at a minimum and accomplished this move through spending down a portion of reserves from the general fund.

Consequently, commissioners said the final numbers reflect a more conservative approach to spending down the budget's reserve funds, in anticipation of next year's planning. City Administrator Jim Brownlee said that by spreading out the costs a little more evenly, the hope is that increases next year also shouldn't be so large.

Mayor Rich Mattern complimented the city staff for their work on the budget and the way it was handled. "Not spending down the reserves is a good practice. We took a lot of money out of some budgets." He also commended the police department for securing two additional police officer positions through grants.

Proposed expenditures in each department are $7,551,941 in the general fund, $1,829,686 in the sanitation fund, $3,951,497 in the sewer and water funds, $658,627 for the library, $161,446 for the airport, $15,432,975 in debt services, $500,000 in capital improvements, and $2,026,803 in special revenue funds.

These figures include funding for two patrol officer positions in the West Fargo Police Department which will be funded through grants. A full-time electrician will also be hired by the Public Works Department. The commission also adjusted the figures Monday night to add in $15,000 to the budget for tools for the electrician.

Equipment requests include two new replacement police vehicles, three ½ ton pickups, one ¾ ton pickup to be replaced and a radial arm mower and two SUVs.

The public hearing to adopt the final budget will take place at 5:45 p.m., Monday, September 21, during the regular West Fargo City Commission meeting that gets underway at 5:30 in the commission chambers at West Fargo City Hall. All meetings are open to the public.