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Horace creates new special assessment policy

The issue arose after the West Fargo School District, which serves the Horace area, objected to their share of costs for street projects, also known as special assessments.

A water tower in the city of Horace, North Dakota.
Forum file photo
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HORACE — A special assessment policy has been finalized for Horace after the growing city settled a dispute over how to divide up costs for road projects.

The issue arose after the West Fargo School District, which serves the Horace area, objected to their share of costs for street projects, also known as special assessments.

After a lower figure for the school district (calculated using a road usage factor, also known as a load factor) was suggested to the Horace City Council at a meeting this month, several council members objected.

Over the past few weeks, the council took another look at the road usage factors for various types of property and decided to stick with recommendations from a consultant who's been working with the city on the policy for the past 1 1/2 years.

The council voted 5-0 to revert back to a higher rate for schools in their meeting Monday, June 20, as well as settling on rates for other types of properties.

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Estimated road usage is used to determine each property's share of their special assessment bill for the street work in their neighborhood.

Each type of property's load factor varies under the policy.

Residential lots pay the lowest rate for street projects with a load factor of 1.

The rate goes up to a 25 load factor for churches and industrial properties, with schools at 45 and commercial property at 50 paying the most.

Consultant Dylan Brown of the Stantec firm said they based the load factors on estimated traffic usage.

Commercial properties were deemed to have the most traffic with customers and truck deliveries on the roads, while schools were determined to be at 45 with buses and other vehicles going to and from the schools.

Brown said commercial properties pay more than schools because they have 12 months of usage, while schools have nine months. The industrial rate was kept a bit lower because of the town's desire for more industry.

Homeowners, with a load factor of 1, will pay less for a street project in their neighborhood than a nearby school which will face a much higher special assessment with a load factor of 45.

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Council member Naomi Burklund said the city paid for a consultant to come up with a policy and that she felt the council should stick with his recommendations.

"We need to trust people we hire," she said.

Council member Jeff Trudeau agreed and said the council had the documentation through the consultant's research to back up the rates.

The school rate previously was even higher, but Brown said that rate came from urban school traffic usage around the country rather than rural schools in places like Horace.

At an earlier meeting, representatives from the West Fargo School District implied that they may not build another school in Horace at the higher rate. That was what upset some of the Horace City Council members as well as feeling like their neighbor to the north was dictating to them what they wanted the rate to be.

Horace Mayor Kory Peterson has said the council's goal all along has been to develop a fair, transparent policy.

City Administrator Brenton Holper added that the policy provides "predictability" on setting special assessments. Such predictability was something that residents have complained about, Holper said.

Council member Sarah Veit said city leaders want to have a relationship with the West Fargo School District and that they want the district to build more schools when needed in the growing community.

An almost 50-year veteran of the newspaper business, Amundson has worked for The Forum and Forum News Service for 15 years. He started as a sport reporter in Minnesota. He is currently the city and night reporter for The Forum. bamundson@forumcomm.com 701-451-5665
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