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Wendy Reuer, Published January 20 2014

Proposed sales tax increase would pay for projects throughout West Fargo

WEST FARGO – If voters approve an increase in the sales tax here, city leaders say the money would help fund basic projects such as street, water and sewer repairs in all areas of the city, which is one of the fastest-growing communities in the state.

City Administrator Jim Brownlee has outlined nearly 60 projects the city will likely need to complete in the next five to 20 years.

They range from building a new $2.5 million water tower near Veterans Boulevard and 32nd Avenue East this year to expanding future lagoons in the next 10 to 20 years, a project that could carry a $16 million-plus price tag.

Mayor Rich Mattern said the list of projects totaling an estimated $109 million – $58.5 million of which are scheduled for the next five years – are spread out across the city in the older parts and the growth areas.

“People think it would all be for south of Interstate (94), and that’s not it at all,” Mattern said.

The City Council met during a special meeting Saturday to discuss asking the voters to approve increasing the sales tax from 6.5 percent, which includes state tax, to 7.5 percent, which would match Fargo’s rate.

Brownlee estimated it would bring in $50 million to $60 million over a 20-year span, although Mattern said Monday that number could be much higher because it is based on a formula using only a 1 percent increase in sales tax revenue each year. The city has generally seen a 3 percent increase each year, he said.

“(Brownlee) is very conservative,” Mattern said.

Mattern said the commission supports the sales tax increase as a way to keep special assessments and property taxes down, although neighborhood roads and improvements in new developments would still be covered by traditional specials and taxes.

The sales tax would be used for 2014 projects such as the new water tower, plus a $100,000 water tower evaluation report; a $300,000 traffic signal installation at Veterans Boulevard and 26th Avenue East; a $1.5 million storm sewer repair project for Elmwood Park; and $1.8 million for a Meadow Ridge storm lift reconstruction and pond rehab.

In the next five to 10 years, the sales tax could also pay for:

  • $4 million Main Avenue project.

  • $2.5 million in city wide flood improvements.

  • $1.5 million improvement project at Ninth Street East and 13th Avenue intersection.

  • $3.5 million to retrofit Drain No. 21.

  • $10 million to purchase about 400 acres for wastewater system land.

  • Street repairs to Ninth street East, Stockyards Road, Fourth Avenue East, Seventh Avenue West, 17th Street East and First Avenue East among other projects.

    Commissioner Duane Hanson said updating water and lagoon systems are a priority for the city because they can prevent notorious “bad smells” from wafting through neighborhoods, a problem the city has heard complaints about before.

    Brownlee said Monday that only a simple voter majority will be needed to approve the sales tax increase.

    The commission plans to discuss drafting ballot language at its Feb. 3 meeting.

    Voters would decide the matter on June 10.

    Readers can reach Forum reporter Wendy Reuer at (701) 241-5530