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Slight mill levy increase in 2010; City approves final budget

West Fargo City Commissioners adopted the 2010 budget in its final form Monday night, with expenditures totaling $31,812,975. This approval brings the city mill levy to 91.46 resulting in a 2.99 mill increase, which will mean 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 also reflects a 20.5 percent increase in health insurance rates.

Included in the budget is spending down approximately $450,000 in reserves from the general fund, which kept the mill levy increase at a minimum. City Administrator Jim Brownlee said doing this helps out citizens by spreading out the increase, with the goal of hopefully lessening the amount needed next year.

Commissioner Lou Bennett agreed, stating "by paying a little increase this year, instead of a large increase next year, we'll be able to scale back."

Commissioner Mike Thorstad said he wanted to reassure residents of the community that there is a need for the increase in the mill levy and that a lot of discussion and review went into the process before the budget was finalized. He also complimented city staff for their efforts.

Noting there has been no mill increase for five years, Thorstad pointed out some of the needs provided for in the 2010 numbers, including the 20 percent increase in health insurance costs, an increase in transit, fire department and library areas, cameras for the police department, and some remodeling of the police department and city hall.

"The employees have a very modest cost of living increase," Thorstad added. "They are our most valuable assets so we want to take care of them. It's not fluff items, it's all been scrutinized and they are needs that will benefit the citizens of West Fargo. In my perspective, it's being well spent and is worthwhile to the citizens."

Brownlee also pointed out that there was no utility increase in this year's budget as there has been in the past.

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, $15,132,975 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. With no residents present at the public hearing on the budget to raise questions or voice opposition, the commission voted 5-0 to approve the budget.

Commissioner Thorstad also brought up the 32nd Avenue bridge project presently underway, saying he's been receiving comments from residents asking if the city has expended an additional $250,000 toward the project which is expected to be completed by Dec. 1.

Both the city attorney and city administrator provided assurances that no additional costs have been incurred at this time, and that once the project is complete if the contractor asks for additional money, that issue will be addressed and either resolved or possibly go to litigation.

In other action, the commission:

-approved the contract with the West Fargo Fire Department for the year 2010 in the amount of $475,000;

-approved the F-M Metropolitan Council of Governments Transportation Plan;

-okayed second reading and final plat approval for Shadow Wood 3rd Addition, rezoning from agricultural to multiple dwellings, for 11 apartment buildings and a total of 200 units;

-favored second reading and final plat approval for Charleswood 26th Addition rezoning from single family dwelling to planned unit development;

-okayed a conditional use permit to allow construction of a petroleum bulk plant at 1133 and 1217 5th Ave. NE;

-gave final plat approval to Burlington's 5th Addition;

-okayed a planned unit development to allow for business expansion at Dave's Tire, 1225 E. Main Ave.;

-awarded the contract for Storm Sewer Improvement District No. 4039 to Tom's Backhoe Service, Inc. of Brainerd, Minn., with a low bid of $607,617.60.

The next regularly scheduled meeting of the West Fargo City Commission will take place at 5:30 p.m., Monday, Oct. 5, in the commission chambers at West Fargo City Hall. All meetings are open to the public.