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Moorhead OKs preliminary levy hike

MOORHEAD - With a tie-breaking vote by Mayor Mark Voxland, the City Council here approved a preliminary tax levy increase of 8.3 percent Monday night.

MOORHEAD - With a tie-breaking vote by Mayor Mark Voxland, the City Council here approved a preliminary tax levy increase of 8.3 percent Monday night.

The increase raises property taxes by $73 on a $140,000 home, Wanda Wagner, assistant finance director, said Tuesday.

The proposed $8.1 million tax levy payable in 2012 is an increase of $623,694, or 8.3 percent more than 2011.

When the preliminary budget is set, the taxable levy can be reduced but not increased.

"It just sets the maximum amount," Wagner said of Monday's action.


Some council members said they couldn't support even a preliminary tax increase.

"Let's not put our citizens at the perception that something is going to happen to the bottom line of their taxes when it isn't," council member Nancy Otto said.

Otto, along with council members Mark Hintermeyer, Luther Stueland and Diane Elmer, voted against the budget proposal.

"What we're going to vote on is approximately a $2 a week increase," council member Diane Wray Williams said Monday.

Wray Williams was joined by council members Greg Lemke, Dan Hunt and Mark Altenburg in voting for the preliminary tax levy increase.

Wagner said the city needed to find ways to account for cuts in funding from the state after the Legislature unalloted about $827,000 in Local Government Aid and eliminated the annual homeowner tax credit that was paid to cities. The credit elimination meant $538,000 in lost revenue to the city, she said.

Clay Dietrich, a former longtime city employee and Moorhead resident, said Monday that he is willing to pay a property tax increase.

"We're going to probably have to slowly take increases in our property tax to maintain our quality of life here," Dietrich said.


Stueland said Monday that talk of cuts to core services such as police and fire are just rumors. "That's a scare tactic, and it's false," he said.

He said he would not support a property tax increase of any kind.

"We are losing ground, still, to our neighbors to the west, in this competition for residents, and I continue to believe the more freedom individuals have to spend their own money on what they believe is valuable is what makes our country, our country," Stueland said. "If we can apply that principle here, it does a service to us short term and long term."

The council also approved a 2012 budget of $62.2 million, a decrease of $176,416, or 0.28 percent, from 2011.

Wagner said staff will likely look at a combination of budget cuts and other revenue sources to further reduce the tax levy before the budget and levy are finalized in December.

In accordance with state law, the city will conduct a public forum at 6 p.m. Dec. 5 to discuss the budget before it is finalized at the council's regular meeting on Dec. 12.

If you go

What: Public discussion of tax levy and 2012 budget


When: 6 p.m. Dec. 5

Where: Moorhead City Council chamber

Info: Residents may contact the City Finance Department

at (218) 299-5311 for more information. The City Council

will finalize the 2012 and payable tax levy at its Dec. 12 meeting.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Wendy Reuer at (701) 241-5530

As the West Fargo editor, Wendy Reuer covers all things West Fargo for The Forum and oversees the production of the weekly Pioneer.
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