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Andrea Domaskin, Published September 11 2007

Property tax increase to stay in Fargo budget

Fargo will increase its property tax rate next year despite objections from a commissioner who believes the city could make up the difference elsewhere.

City commissioners voted 3-2 Monday to approve a 2008 budget that includes a 1-mill increase from this year’s budget.

Commissioner Mike Williams argued the increase is unnecessary. He said the city could plug more money into the budget from administrative fees the city may receive from $53 million in construction projects planned next year.

The 2008 budget lists projected revenue of $885,000 from the administrative fees, a conservative estimate, Finance Director Kent Costin said. If it holds true, the city would finish one in five projects it’s planning, Williams said.

But Mayor Dennis Walaker said the city needs that cushion.

The city has issues in court that “could be extremely expensive,” though Walaker didn’t name them. The budget includes income from Grand Forks, N.D., transporting solid waste to Fargo’s landfill, but that’s not a sure deal. If the economy changes, Fargo could delay some construction projects.

Williams moved to eliminate the mill increase, which failed 2-3. Commissioner Tim Mahoney then moved to approve the budget as is, which was approved with dissent from Williams and Commissioner Linda Coates.

Without accounting for property-value increases, the owner of a $100,000 home will pay about $5 more in city taxes next year.

Also Monday, commissioners:

- Adopted a policy that lays out the rules and application process for developers who want to use tax-increment financing.

City Administrator Pat Zavoral said the city addressed concerns with Fargo builders, who initially objected to fees, a cap on assistance and other issues.

- Directed Police Chief Keith Ternes to study whether to change a city ordinance prohibiting dogs and cats from running at large.

The ordinance requires the animals to be on a 6-foot leash. Fargo resident David Hill asked commissioners to allow shock collars or training collars in place of leashes.

Hill told commissioners he’s been spoken to by police when he has training collars on his dogs.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Andrea Domaskin at (701) 241-5556