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No tax increase in proposed budget

West Fargo City officials are in the process of reviewing final figures for the 2011 budget, and if all goes according to plan it will be good news for West Fargo residents.

The preliminary budget as it sits now at $32,393,418 translates to a zero tax increase for the new budget year, keeping the mill levy at the same level as the 2010 budget at 91.47 mills.

During their regularly scheduled budget meeting Monday night, commissioners reviewed special and utility funds, library, airport, and fire department areas.

Included in the final budget number proposal is a 50 cent increase per thousand gallons of water usage on the city water bill and a $1 increase on the sanitation bill, taking it from $10 to $11 per month. If approved, these rates will go into effect Jan. 1, 2011.

City ordinance says the utility fund has to balance, therefore the need for the rate increase. The city hasn't experienced any major hikes in a number of years, making the city rates still one of the lowest in the region for sewer, water and storm sewer rates for city's over 5,000 residents.

Fire Chief Roy Schatschneider also presented the contract for fire protection for the city, with the 2011 budget totaling $612,000.

Also included in the budget is a 1 percent cost of living salary increase and a step for eligible employees as rated by evaluations; requests for new equipment totaling $626,475, broken down $80,000 for street equipment, $354,475 for sanitation, and $192,000 for sewer and water; and one new police officer and two sanitation workers. The commission is still waiting for final numbers to arrive at health insurance figures, with proposals out to present provider Blue Cross, and also to Sanford Health and Medica.

The next step in the budget process is giving the commission time to review the final numbers, with a preliminary budget approval date set for the last commission meeting of this month on Aug. 30. The final budget has to be approved by early October.