Hi, Mayor Mahoney,
Our community is continuing its upward trajectory in several measurable ways, including population, geographic footprint, infill development activities and stronger neighborhoods. The Fargo community has more than 40 recognized neighborhoods and we need to continually work together to ascertain ways of empowering and energizing residents to become civic leaders within these neighborhoods to truly allow our city to thrive.
Fargo is a great community. This urbanized city is a place of growth and education, a place for people to gather for events, a spot on the map that holds value to the people who call Fargo home and a place where changes can be made to continue creating these memories.
At the Commission meeting on September 11, the Preliminary Budget was approved. The Commissioners and I received and reviewed letters, emails and phone calls from citizens during the preliminary phase as well as heard their testimonies at the Commission meeting last night. I can promise you that we have heard you and that we’re committed to providing a reasonable tax rate to fund a growing city’s priorities.
At the meeting, common topic themes included the Residential Sales Tax Rate and social services allocation.
Property tax values continue to increase as a result of a high level of residential and commercial construction. This trend is expected to continue as more people move into the community to work, attend school and raise families. The City of Fargo reduced our tax mill levy by 2.25 mills during the 2016 budget and by 2 mills during the 2017 budget due to rising property values. The 2018 approved budget also reduces the tax mill levy by 2 mills.
As a taxpayer, the growth of the city helps to keep your taxes down. As tax exempt applicants come off of their exemptions, we have a positive impact on our tax revenue. The City needs to remain competitive with all other developing cities in order for smart growth to occur here in our neighborhoods.
If you think the assessed value of your property is incorrect, contact City Assessor Ben Hushka. He’d be glad to assist in reviewing your individual property. If you feel you have limited income and cannot pay your taxes, we do have a Homestead Act that would help you out.
The City of Fargo provides financial assistance to certain not-for-profit organizations that benefit youth, arts, human services and others. This social services grant allocation process is managed by the Community Development Committee and final funding recommendations are approved by the City Commission. The City processes the not-for-profit social services payments on Giving Hearts Day and leverages using tax dollars to qualify for the Dakota Medical Foundation matching funds to distribute to agencies within the community.
The budget includes funding to implement the first steps of the emerging Public Arts Master Plan, which seeks to identify opportunities within our community for the incorporation of art and arts education. Creativity of our citizens fosters new growth ideas, helps to visually share messages and showcase our cultures. We all come from different backgrounds, have unique traditions and think differently.
These traits showcased in art and art education allows the City of Fargo to become more united, learn to appreciate different perspectives and help to construct an environment that isn’t only our manicured buildings, trees and homes. We all need that spark of color and support for art and arts education can help bring in that human touch.
Throughout this process, we have all remained devoted to providing high quality services to our residents, while also continuing our commitment of being fiscally conservative with the people’s money. We all are impacted by the recent challenges of the reduction in aid from the State of North Dakota and this requires us to respond accordingly.
We have formulated a budget that is balanced, while also offering our citizens a level of property tax relief through a 2 mill reduction in the total mill levy. As noted in the first graph, City of Fargo Effective Residential Tax Rate by Year, tax rates have decreased consistently over time and this year’s budget is 1.28%. The second graph, City of Fargo Taxable Valuation by Year, denotes increases in taxable value over a twenty year period.
The City’s General Fund budget is proposed to just slightly increase by 0.7%, with a 5.6% decrease in operating expenses. This budget includes a modest increase of utility fees, which haven’t been raised for several years. We have conducted rate analyses, which resulted in these recommendations. The proposed increases would raise the average homeowner’s water fees by less than $1 a month and wastewater fees by less than $0.50 a month.
Fargo’s municipal utility rates are at the lower end of the spectrum compared to other North Dakota cities, with our residents continuing to highly rank the quality of Fargo services. These rate adjustments are a slight increase that will pay dividends in maintaining our services and facilities.
The City set five goals to accomplish for the 2018 Budget and we also highlighted areas to continue current initiatives. I spoke about these in detail on my Mayor’s Message post from August 3. If you would like to learn more about the 2018 goals and highlights, please read the Mayor’s Message from that day. The 2018 Approved Budget has also been posted online and can be found in the Finance Department.
As 2018 approaches, the approved budget will allow for Fargo to continue to grow as a city and a greater metro community, while working to provide the city services needed by all. Each day, I look forward to working with city employees and community members to create a far more experience. The City of Fargo is far more than just a city because of the willingness of everybody to continue to improve our surroundings.
Mayor Tim Mahoney