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Maureen McMullen, Published January 19 2014

WF officials discuss higher sales tax

WEST FARGO – Residents here likely will vote in June on whether to approve a sales tax increase that would pay for the growing city’s infrastructure needs.

City commissioners on Saturday discussed a possible sales tax increase as a way to fund the city’s almost $58.5 million price tag on work including improvements to roadways and upgrades to water and sewer systems.

If voters approve the increase, West Fargo’s total sales tax would increase from 6.5 percent, which includes state tax, to 7.5 percent, matching

Fargo’s rate.

City commissioners said that would bring in $50 million to $60 million over the span of 20 years.

An alternative to an increase in utility fees and special assessments, city administrator Jim Brownlee said the tax increase would act as “another funding mechanism to keep both ends lower.”

“We’re going to have to do the projects, we know we’re going to have to spend the money, so it becomes a matter of where do people want to pay for it?” said Brownlee. “What’s the least painful; on special assessments, on your tax bill, utility rates going up more and more?”

Some of the infrastructure improvement plan’s projects include construction on 12th Avenue, beginning with a sanitary sewer force main replacement scheduled for 2015.

Though 80 percent of the project is funded through federal aid, Brownlee said sales tax could help simplify construction on the 12th Avenue sewer and water system components.

“The water and sewer are local expenses, and they’ll be specially assessed unless we get some sales tax that we could put towards that,” said Brownlee.

City commissioners will meet Feb. 3 to draft the language for the tax increase measure before submitting it to the county to appear on the ballot.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Maureen McMullen at (701) 235-7311