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Moorhead council signs off on proposed $84 million budget, increase in property taxes

MOORHEAD -- Homeowners here can anticipate an increase in property taxes for next year after the City Council approved it's tax levy and proposed 2019 budget on Monday, Sept. 24.

MOORHEAD - Homeowners here can anticipate an increase in property taxes for next year after the City Council approved it's tax levy and proposed 2019 budget on Monday, Sept. 24.

The operating and capital budget for this upcoming year totals $83.8 million, an increase of $1.15 million over the 2018 budget.

As for the city's tax levy of $14.8 million, it's an increase of about $1 million compared to last year, according to the city's finance director Wanda Wagner. This increase will result in a proposed 3.4 percent increase in property taxes for the city's median valued home of $180,000. For those homes that did not see an increase in value and based on the median home, Wagner said that amounts to an increase of about $23 per year.

The council approved the tax levy for the highest amount it could be at Monday's meeting, but Mayor Del Rae Williams said that total could decrease, but not go over the $14.8 million mark.

One of Moorhead's largest pots of revenue comes from the state's Local Government Aid, of LGA, but financial support from the source has diminished. LGA revenues in 2019 are only projected to increase $1,150, to a total of $7.2 million. Lack of state funding has meant the city has had to find more than $700,000 in new property tax revenue for 2019.

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"LGA, when it is stagnant or going down, property taxes have to fill the gap," Williams said.

However, it should be noted that the city has significant tax exempt properties, thereby limiting property tax revenue for new business growth.

Councilman Steve Gehrtz said he supports the "ceiling" of the tax levy, but he said he was in favor of "downward pressure" to try and decrease the overall levy total.

The 2019 budget increases are due to continued implementation of a new class and compensation study, and improvements to the wastewater treatment plant, storm water and sanitation, forestry, pest control, street lights, the aquatic center, fire station, library and city hall.

The city is budgeting an additional 10 percent in health insurance for premiums and minimum debt service expenditures. There's also a new lease payment to Clay County for the new joint law enforcement center and the Moorhead Police Department received new smartphones.

In addition, there was an airport pavement rehabilitation project, environmental assessment and engineering for the 11th Street underpass project and new electronic election equipment.

A meeting for public input will be at 6 p.m. Nov. 26, in the City Hall Council Chambers for discussion of the tax levy and 2019 budget during the truth-in-taxation meeting. Final adoption of both items will be at the Dec.10 council meeting.

Citizens may contact the City Finance Department at 218-299-5318 or by mail at P.O. Box 779 Moorhead, MN 56561 with questions on the levy or budget.

Related Topics: MOORHEAD
Kim Hyatt is a reporter for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead covering community issues and other topics. She previously worked for the Owatonna People's Press where she received the Minnesota Newspaper Association's Dave Pyle New Journalist Award in 2016. Later that year, she joined The Forum as a night reporter and is now part of the investigative team. She's a 2014 graduate of the University of Minnesota Duluth.
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