WEST FARGO — The West Fargo City Commission got its first look at the 2022 budget proposal from staff at its meeting Monday, July 19.

City Administrator Tina Fisk said the preliminary budget shows a request to increase the general and fire funds by 4 mills, which is mostly the result of taking on the fire department as a city department during a time the city and department are growing exponentially. The general fund and fire expenditures have risen by more than $3 million.

"That sounds terrible and it sounds huge, but there are a number of things we did for this to cut those costs and offset those," Fisk said.

Calls for the fire department and police departments have also risen.

If the preliminary budget is approved by the City Commission with a mill levy increase of about 4 mills, it would result in an increase for residential property owners of about $22 per $100,000 of property value.

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"One mill brings in approximately $190,000 from all property owners," Fisk said. "That doesn't go very far when you look at today's prices."

The mill increase would allow for seven new positions to potentially be created in the city: three new fire department positions; one new police staff member, a crime analyst; a new engineering assessment coordinator; one fleet equipment technician; and one new IT technician.

The increase would also give the library a mill levy increase of 1.2 mills.

Fisk said 14 staffing requests were submitted that totaled more than $1.1 million. Instead, six staff positions were kept in the budget for a little more than $500,000.

"The staff continue to evaluate for more professional fees to ensure they are appropriate," Fisk said.

The total mill levy estimate for 2022 is 74.04 for the city's general and fire fund. In 2020, the mill levy was at 77.47, and the preliminary budget is currently slated for a 82.67 mill levy. The mill levy has steadily risen since 2018 when it increased to 73.08 from 70.24 in 2017. In 2019, the mill levy increased by only .14 to 73.22 and in 2020, it was increased to 77.98.

The preliminary budget will be presented officially to the West Fargo City Commission at its Aug. 2 meeting. Once the commission approves the 2022 preliminary budget, the mill levy can be reduced but it cannot be increased again.

"That freezes any expenditures that are funded through the mill levy from going up," Fisk said.