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Helmut Schmidt, Published September 09 2009

No property tax increase projected in Fargo budget

Fargo will hire more police officers and firefighters in 2010, but city workers won’t get cost-of-living pay raises, according to Mayor Dennis Walaker’s preliminary budget.

The City Commission voted 5-0 on Tuesday to approve the overall budget, just more than $198.3 million with all funds included.

The commission will hold a public hearing on the budget Sept. 21.

The proposed budget is 3.7 percent greater than 2009’s. Walaker recommends no hike in the mill levy, leaving it at 58.25 mills.

While the budget offers no COLA raises, it also doesn’t raise insurance premiums. And half of the city’s employees will get step pay raises, he said.

There are also no staff cuts or hiring freezes, Walaker said.

The budget adds seven police officers, paid for by a Community Oriented Policing Services grant from the Department of Justice.

The $1.4 million COPS grant will fund the officers over three years.

It also adds 12 firefighters, funded by Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grants from the Department of Homeland Security.

The $1.3 million SAFER grants help pay for the new firefighters over five years starting at 90 percent and dropping to zero.

Commissioners Brad Wimmer and Dave Piepkorn asked that a midyear pay hike for employees be considered, if the economy improves.

A $663,000 spike in workers’ compensation premiums and a $1.5 million court decision against the city for overcharging on traffic fines wiped out any leeway for pay hikes, Walaker said.

To learn more, go to www.cityoffargo.com and click on the link for the preliminary 2010 budget.

In other business, the commission voted 5-0 to approve:

Selling $2.89 million in bonds to pay for a new fire station at 3957 Village Lane S., equipping it and buying a new fire truck.

Commissioners also OK’d a development plan for the station north of the Osgood Hornbacher’s store.

The station will improve emergency response in the city’s southwest, said Fire Chief Bruce Hoover.

It should be finished in December, he said, and will open with one pumper and a three-person crew.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583