FARGO — A resolution that would make it a "last resort" to assess residents on their property taxes for the local share of the Fargo-Moorhead flood diversion project was delayed for two weeks by the Fargo City Commission on Monday night, April 22.
Commissioner Tony Grindberg said the delay would allow the state share of the project to be finalized as Gov. Doug Burgum is considering vetoing a water project bill that was short of the diversion authority's request to boost the state's long-term commitment for the massive flood protection project to $870 million. The Legislature has passed a bill that calls for $750 million, about $120 million short of that goal.
Grindberg said he and Cass County Commission Chairwoman Mary Scherling agreed it would be best to wait until the state legislative funding issue is finalized, although Grindberg said if the funding level isn't reached this year they would go back to legislators in the next session to try to secure more funding.
The resolution, drafted by Fargo City Attorney Erik Johnson, states that a property tax levy to make up the difference would have to be made by the Cass County Water Resource District, and that it would be used only if a deficiency exists in all other other funding sources.
Grindberg said the private-public partnership planned to construct the diversion could also come in with bids lower than expected for the estimated $2.75 billion project or that the diversion authority's finance committee could find possible alternatives for the project that could reduce its cost.
Commissioner Tony Gehrig, however, said the $2.75 billion is a "dishonest number" and that he believes it will climb to $3.1 billion. He said the current number being used is in 2018 dollars.
"That's not true," shot back Grindberg at the meeting. He and Mayor Tim Mahoney said the federal Army Corps of Engineers and consultants all believe it can be done for the lower cost.
Nonetheless, all of the commissioners seem to agree that they had no desire to use special property tax assessments to make up the possible difference needed to fund the entire project, but would rely on the city of Fargo and county sales taxes through 2084 to finance all of the local share or find project cuts to make ends meet.