FARGO - Two years ago, R.L. “Bill” Worth wrote a letter to the editor blasting the city’s special assessment policy, which had resulted in massive tax bills for homeowners in a portion of the Northport neighborhood.
He said he demanded answers from city leaders but heard nothing back. “Apparently the city doesn't respond well to individuals.”
A response came in recent days as Mayor Tim Mahoney appointed Worth as one of 14 members of the city’s new Special Assessment Task Force, charged with studying ways to reform the tax or eliminate it altogether. The city released a list of members Wednesday, Aug. 22.
On it are Worth and five other homeowners, five industry representatives and three city officials.
The task force will be chaired by City Commissioner Tony Grindberg. Commissioner Tony Gehrig, who proposed eliminating specials during his re-election campaign, is also a member.
The homeowners include Worth, the founder and president of Worth Construction; Curtis Goroski, who last year represented John Deere Electronic Solutions in appealing a special assessment; Darrell Christianson; former Planning Commissioner Kristy Fremstad; Kent Busek, an accountant and developer; and former City Commissioner John Cosgriff.
Other members include Don Dabbert Jr. from the Home Builders Association of Fargo-Moorhead; Gloria Palm Connor from the Fargo-Moorhead Area Association of Realtors; Kevin J. Hanson, who represents the mortgage industry; developer Jim Bullis; and Jeff Volk from the Fargo Moorhead West Fargo Chamber of Commerce.
Bullis and Busek are both officers of the EagleRidge Realty Trust, a real estate partnership with residential projects in Fargo and Minot.
West Fargo Mayor Bernie Dardis will also be on the task force, but as a non-voting member.
Special assessments are a kind of property tax based on how much benefit a property receives from a public works project rather than the value of the property.
In recent years, specials have risen because of a Fargo policy decreasing the city’s cost-share and increasing property owners’ share. The city has had to reverse its policy after outrage from some homeowners, and that outrage also led to the creation of the task force.
The homeowners on the task force have about $16,400 in current and future special assessments. Worth’s total is about $4,900, the second highest next to Cosgriff’s $8,300, though Worth likely saw a decrease after the city reversed its specials policy.
Grindberg has a total of $19,900 of special assessments on two homes, and Gehrig has a total of $8,200 on two homes.
The task force’s first meeting is scheduled for 7:30 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 28.