FARGO — Fargo's Park Board unanimously approved an increase in its tax levy for 2022 to help pay for two major projects slated to be in full swing next year.
The district is keeping its general fund levy the same but is increasing its debt service levy to begin making payments on its share of the Fargo Sports Complex in far south Fargo, and the reconstruction of the 45-year-old Island Park pool and bathhouse in downtown Fargo.
The projects haven't been finalized yet, with 50% or more in private donations still needed to help build the sports complex. The district is also seeking more input from residents on what they'd like to see in the new pool area.
The sports complex, to be built just off Interstate 29, will include a major league size soccer field, basketball and volleyball courts for youth tournaments and general use, a hockey arena, a walking and running track, community rooms and the park district headquarters.
The pool is expected to maintain its competitive-sized pool but with amenities such as slides, diving boards and a platform, a walk-in pool, a lazy river and expanded concession area and bathhouse Some residents would like to see other attractions added to the site, thus another survey of residents.
During the past decade, the park district has lowered its tax levy by small amounts from 2012 to 2018, and has since been raising the levy by small amounts with the largest being a 1 mill increase this year.
The added levy will begin to pay off an expected bond issue of up to $44 million the park board is expected to approve in the coming months to finance the $77 million sports complex and the $16 million pool. A 60-day period where residents could object to the bonding proposal has passed with no formal protests registered with the department, said Executive Director Dave Leker.
Park District Finance Director Broc Lietz has said the state legislature in 2019 passed legislation allowing park districts to bond for projects upon approval of their boards, and to pay off the bonds with property taxes.
Public Financial Management, hired by the district to look into the bonding, has estimated that it would take about 4 mills to pay off the bonds if it ends up at $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.
The district can still lower the tax levy before it's finalized in October but can't raise it any higher.
In all the debt service portion of the district's tax levy will be about $6 million, compared to $3 million this year.
The general fund levy will total about $13.9 million with the levy staying the same at 19.97 mills.
The park district tax levy is combined with the city, school district and county levies to come up with property owners' tax bill for 2022. An estimate of each property taxpayer's bill for next year will be mailed out in about a month with all of the levies finalized by October.
Also as part of the budget, Lietz told the commissioners that fees will be going up roughly 2.6%, salaries will increase about 4% and seven new employees will be hired.
The 4% salary increase includes 2.6% for cost of living with another 1.4% allowed for merit increases for employees, Lietz said.
Health insurance costs are going up about 7%, with employees seeing an increase in their 25% share of the premiums.
One of the biggest expenses in the budget, Lietz noted, is for the operations of the city's five golf courses.
Lietz said there's been a "resurgence" in golfing in the past two years, which has resulted in roughly $775,000 in extra revenue in the coming year, however expenses are also up due to maintenance and operation of the courses.
The next biggest expense is for park maintenance and operations.