FARGO — For the next two months, Fargo residents can provide input on the up to $44 million in bonds the Fargo Park District may issue to help pay for a new sports complex planned in south Fargo and reconstruction of the Island Park pool.
The projects are the largest in the history of the park district, and it would be the first time the district has issued such bonds.
Park District Finance Director Broc Lietz told the park board that up to $38.5 million would be used for the estimated $77 million sports complex and up to $16 million for the new pool.
The board unanimously approved proceeding with the bonding process but won't make a final decision until the 60-day comment period is over. Financial advisory firm Public Financial Management is helping with the process.
The park district might not have to rely as heavily on bonds if it can allocate more money for the sports complex from its budget or if private donations exceed the park district's goal of $38.5 million, Lietz said. Right now the park district has budgeted $10.5 million for the complex.
Lietz called the $44 million needed the "worst-case scenario."
So far, the latest private donations for the sports complex total about $21.5 million, about $17 million short of the 50-50 goal in the private-public partnership, and $24 million short of a 60-40 private-public split.
Park District Foundation Director Brian Arett told the board that he was "optimistic" the park district can reach its goal of $17 million or more in donations. The foundation had planned about 50 meetings with possible donors and about a third had been completed, he said.
"I think we'll have some really good success stories to share," Arett said. "But we realize the clock is ticking."
Park District Commissioner Dawn Morgan said the main question residents will have is how much the bonding proposal would raise their taxes.
Lietz said the state legislature in 2019 passed legislation allowing park districts to bond for projects upon approval of their boards and thus to pay off the bonds with property taxes.
Public Financial Management has estimated that it would take about 4 mills to pay off the bonds if it ends up being the top end of $44 million, Leitz said. That would put the annual property tax increase to pay off the bonds on a $100,000 home at about $18 a year and $36 for a $200,000 home.
Park Board President Stacey Griggs said she is hoping for more outside funding to keep the bonding down. She added that with some financed park district projects coming off the books in the next few years, it could reduce the final figure for property tax bills.
Even if the maximum bonding is needed, taxpayers will pay for under 60% of the $93 million for the two major projects, said Lietz, who added he felt it was a good deal for taxpayers as the facilities would provide "lifelong" benefits for the community and region.
The indoor community sports complex, the largest ever project for the park district, would include six basketball-volleyball courts, a full-sized turf soccer field, an ice rink, a walking track, multipurpose community space and new administrative offices for the park district.
The park board is considering three options for the Island Park pool, including one plan that calls for a lazy river and water slides.