WEST FARGO — West Fargo residents will see an increase of roughly $20 per $100,000 of home value in city taxes in 2022, after the City Commission passed its 2022 final budget Monday, Sept. 20.
"This has no changes from the preliminary hearing," City Administrator Tina Fisk said. "I would like to thank all of the staff on their hard work. It was a really tough year, but we did a great job. It's never easy, and we appreciate your honesty when it comes down to making the numbers work."
The budget, which will increase the city's mill levy 4.5 mills, with an additional mill being returned to the library and the remaining to be used to hire additional city staff in 2022, was passed by a 3-to-1 vote. Commissioner Eric Gjerdevig voted no while Commissioner Mandy George was not in attendance due to a work commitment.
Gjerdevig has pointed to the $2 million in COVID-19 aid remaining in the city's coffers that has not been designated for use. He said he felt the city could have reduced the mill levy further or kept it and increased the cost of living for staff.
A public hearing was held at 6 p.m. Monday, at which no one from the public spoke to the City Commission in regard to the budget.
"This is a difficult budget for me to vote for with the amount of increases we are seeing," Mayor Bernie Dardis said. "It is always difficult to ask the public for additional resources in order to provide the public with the services they expect."
Dardis said the fire department expects to see a 300% increase in fire calls in 2022 and the city is continuing to grow at lightning speed, with 45 more subdivisions that were added to West Fargo in 2021.
Commissioner Mark Simmons made the motion to approve the budget after Dardis commented.
An increase of 4.5 mills is about $20.25 for every $100,000 in home value or $51.43 for a home with the 2020 median sale price of about $254,000.
However, the West Fargo School District is planning a 2022 mill levy increase as is the West Fargo Park District, adding about $60 to each $100,000 of home value for residents in West Fargo.
The 2022 budget requests included the ability to hire six new employees for the city, including: three firefighters, one full-time crime analyst, one engineering assessment coordinator, one fleet equipment technician in public works and one more IT technician.
The preliminary budget showed an increase in some department budgets by more than 20%, such as the engineering department, which has a budget increase of 46% from $616,200 to more than $1 million. The communications department has a 30% increase from the projected 2021 budget of $391,500 to about $515,600. The police department budget increases by 7%, or from $9.145 million to $10.139 million.
The public works department would increase from $156,800 to $355,200, along with the city's "fleet and facilities" budget that is increasing from $335,216 to $650,149.