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Gjerdevig: It's only fair to include Fairgrounds and Bonanzaville in assessments

Eric Gjerdevig. Special to The Forum

Special assessments and property taxes have become a hot-button topic across our larger community; and, it's a concern to many in West Fargo.

Through many conversations it is clear to me that residents are concerned with rising costs and want to be engaged on these topics. They also have an expectation of fairness in how property taxes and special assessments are managed. People expect that properties, on the same street, with the same size lot, and similar value pay the same or similar property tax and

special assessment for infrastructure improvements.

Unfortunately, this isn't the case regarding the Red River Valley Fairgrounds or Bonanzaville. As it sits today, the City of West Fargo has no authority to assess either organization because they sit outside of West Fargo. The amount that would otherwise be assessed to them for City of West Fargo projects is simply spread across other property owners in that special assessment district. Most recently, this resulted in hundreds of Main Avenue area business and residential property owners paying more than their fair share for Main Avenue construction.

Bonanzaville and the Red River Valley Fair have West Fargo addresses, use West Fargo roads, are serviced with West Fargo water and sewer, and their events impact our city. They are part of our community in every way possible except for legally. This situation effectively means that the Fair and Bonanzaville are subsidized by a portion of West Fargo property owners through special assessments. In my example, the math is a little complicated due to the counties contribution for a few specific line items of the project; however, a significant dollar amount was put on the backs of westside property owners that would have otherwise been assessed to the Fair and Bonanzaville.

I am empathetic with the financial position of both organizations. I'm also empathetic with the

hundreds of property owners that are currently paying more than they should for the Main Avenue reconstruction. These organizations need to be annexed so they can be properly assessed for future improvements just like what we expect from other nonprofit, business, and residential property owners throughout West Fargo. I hope my fellow commissioners will support addressing this issue.

This would be one small step in improving how special assessments are managed. I believe there can be more and many of you do as well. Based on this, I have proposed that West Fargo schedule a series of community forums to bring together residents who want to be a part of the conversation to gather feedback and start a community dialog on possible other improvements. I look forward to these events in the near future.

Property taxes and special assessments are a vital tool in how we pay for our city services and

infrastructure. It's hard to imagine how either could be eliminated, but I am confident that there are ways to improve them. I hope West Fargo residents will join me in this discussion.