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Fargo mayor may ask for mid-year budget hike if police, firefighters need a raise

Tyler Sumner and Justin Kindem, inside, from Laney's work on wiring of the downtown Fargo Fire Department museum addition along NP Avenue on Friday, August 12, 2016.David Samson / The Forum

FARGO — City commissioners may be asked for a mid-year budget increase if the budget team determines firefighters and police are underpaid, Mayor Tim Mahoney said at a hearing Monday night, Sept. 10.

While a city pay study suggests the pay increase for all city employees in 2019 will keep pace with peer cities, the firefighters union has said firefighters are actually underpaid by 19 percent.

Mahoney said the budget team, which includes him, will work with the union but that it would be unfair to commissioners to rush a recommendation to meet the deadline for budget approval.

State law requires the city to approve its budget before Oct. 7. The last regular City Commission meeting before that date is in two weeks on Sept. 24. The budget team says it expects to arrive at a recommendation in July.

Firefighters initially complained about their pay, but the budget team said it will look at police pay as well because the two are intricately linked.

Mahoney’s proposed 2019 budget includes a 2.2 percent increase in the city’s main operating budget for a total of $98.5 million, with no cuts in the property tax rate, leaving it at 51 mills, and a slight increase in fees. That means the city will collect 5.3 percent more in property taxes based on an overall increase in property values, though some properties saw values increase significantly more than that.

The Monday meeting was a public hearing to give taxpayers a chance to weigh in on the city budget. Only a representative from Amvets Post 7 spoke, but his complaint had to do with the assessed value of the club’s parking lot, which increased nearly 50 percent in a year, rather than property taxes.

City Assessor Ben Hushka said his staff will take a look, though the hearing on assessments was held in April.