West Fargo to decrease mill levy, increase staff and spending in 2023
The city's final budget is due in October.
WEST FARGO — West Fargo will see a slight decrease in its overall mill levy in 2023 thanks to higher property valuations, but the city continues its trend of spending more and adding more staff in 2023.
City Administrator Tina Fisk presented the city's final budget at the City Commission regular meeting Monday, Sept. 19. The proposed budget will lower the city's overall general mill levy by 0.48 mills in 2023 to a total of 72.21 mills.
Fisk said a primary driver of the ability to slightly lower the mill level is an increase in property values across West Fargo. One mill will be equal to $232,014 for 2023, additional property taxes will generate about $1.6 million more for the city in 2023.
The proposed budget also calls for hiring an additional survey manager and engineering technician, a communications coordinator, a property appraiser in assessing, two more staff members for the street department, and five patrol officers, one administrative assistant and a body camera records specialist for the police department.
Many of the departments have an increase in their budgets, including the police department, which will raise its budget by more than $2 million in 2023.
The administration department budget will increase by $188,990, the assessor budget will increase by $91,995, human resources will increase $105,999, information technology is going up more than $200,000, the planning department is increasing its budget by more than $306,000, engineering will increase its budget by more than $325,000 and the communications department budget will increase by $117,879.
The 2023 budget also includes a 4% cost-of-living increase for staff and a 9% increase in staff health insurance cost.
Some residents who spoke Monday questioned the continued increases in budgets and said while the overall mill levy may decrease in 2023 due to the higher property valuations, their individual tax bills have continued to rise sharply in recent years.
"Somewhere along the line, this has to level out somewhere," resident Bill West said. "If I have to pay that kind of increase in my taxes because the city keeps increasing its budget, then when is this thing going to level off? I don't want our taxes to go up every year. "
Resident Brent Nicholson said the increase in taxes year after year is going to be a hardship for low-income residents and seniors, who often live on a fixed income.
Fisk said there has been a 17.6% increase in the city's overall budget from 2021 to 2022.
Commission Brad Olson pointed to the city's growth as a reason the budget continues to increase. While the population of West Fargo grew exponentially between the 2010 and 2020 census, the U.S. Census reported 2% growth in recent years.
The West Fargo City Commission will approve the final 2023 budget at its first meeting in October. A final budget must be sent to Cass County by Oct. 10.