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Tim Mahoney, Brad Wimmer, Mike Williams and Dave Peipkorn, Published June 28 2009

City of Fargo must come up with major share of flood work funds

The residents of Fargo have a choice to make Tuesday on whether to enact a half-cent sales tax to fund the local share of permanent flood protection. Issues of taxation are never easy. The decisions on how to fund projects that benefit the public good are some of the most difficult that elected officials face. This is especially true when deciding on such emotional issues that affect the safety and well-being of the people we are charged with protecting.

The issue of permanent flood protection and whether a sales tax is the best of the options available is something we have spent a lot of time discussing. Some of our critics say we have spent too much time discussing and not enough time acting. The alternatives have been weighed, and we are ready to act. We are ready to vote “yes” for the half-cent sales tax, and we ask that you join us in our vote.

The need for flood protection is paramount to the future of Fargo. While there has yet to be a specific plan we can all dissect, one thing is clear: The costs will be there, and they will be substantial. As a city, we are left with only a few viable funding options for something of this size. The city can special assess properties using some sort of mathematical formula, it can raise property taxes or it can impose a sales tax. None of these options are popular (most tax increases are not), but when the need to provide a public service is apparent, the money has to come from somewhere.

The estimated portion of funds that the city is responsible for on the total flood protection, after federal and state aid are taken into account, will be just over 20 percent. In total dollars, this works out to be more than $200 million.

The City Commission voted 5-0 to support this issue and to put it on the ballot because, when comparing the cost to the benefit, it was clear we needed permanent protection, and needed it as soon as possible.

The writers are Fargo city commissioners.