Minot City Council considers $176 million budget

Council considers $176 million preliminary budget

File Photo Minot firefighters battle a mobile home fire last March. A fire captain position would be added to the fire department under a proposed 2022 budget.

Eighteen new staff positions, several major construction projects and increases in residential and commercial sewer fees are included in a 2022 preliminary budget approved by the Minot City Council Monday.

The nearly $176 million budget is up 22.6% from 2021, with much of that increase in flood project construction and landfill infrastructure, including a new entrance and recycling transfer station.

The property tax levy would increase by 2 mills to 123.57 mills. The dollar request is up from $25.78 million to $26.54 million.

The owner of a house at the median value of $187,000 in 2022 would pay $1,040, compared to $982 paid for 2021 by the owner of a home at the median value of $182,000. That amounts to an increase of $57.45 a year or $4.79 a month.

Calculated based on $100,000 of home value, the increase is $16 more in 2022 than in 2021 per $100,000.

File Photo Traffic is redirected for underground work along Burdick Expressway in June. Utility projects are included in work planned in the city’s proposed 2022 budget.

The budget proposes a monthly increase of 35 cents in the residential sewer flat fee, 15-cent increase in the sewer usage and a 50-cent increase in the storm sewer development charge. Apartment and commercial users would see similar increases. The change would bring the monthly cost for an average residential user using 1,200 cubic feet of water to $112.38, up $2.65.

Minot City Manager Harold Stewart explained the 2-mill property-tax increase basically reflects an adjustment to accommodate a change in the way the state calculates the formula for Homestead and veterans property-tax credits.

He said an effort was made to hold down the tax burden at a time when Minot Public Schools is considering a bond issue for a second high school and remodeling of Central Campus into a middle school.

“We also understand that the tax burden of all entities comes together and affects individual constituents of our community. It all comes out of the same pocket,” he said. “So we’ve made a concerted effort to try and not increase the city’s property-tax ask this year, in an effort to help be supportive of the school district’s ask, because we believe that is an important development for our community to help it grow and thrive and move forward positively for the foreseeable future.”

One way the city is holding the line on taxes is spending conservatively in 2021, Stewart said. That has created $22.1 million in carry-over funds that will be available to cover one-time costs in 2022, Stewart said.

Significant budget changes include $14.35 million for the flood protection project, an increase of about $8 million. It includes $7 million, largely from federal funds, for stormwater drainage improvements at the airport. The sanitation budget is up $6.2 million due to capital improvements. A $2.9 million increase is connected to water and sewer projects, such as the Northwest Minot Water Main Replacement project. Other major projects in the budget include the Northwest Area Water Supply project, Northwest Fire Station and City Hall retaining wall.

The city expects around $7.4 million from the federal American Rescue Act for infrastructure projects, but that money has not yet been allocated and is not included in the preliminary budget. Stewart called $7.4 million a “drop in the bucket” toward Minot’s infrastructure needs.

The proposal to add 18 new employees includes emergency dispatchers, heavy equipment operators and bus drivers along with a mechanic, plumbing inspector and recycling coordinator. It includes a computer forensics technician, public information officer and administrative clerk in the police department and a fire captain in the fire department. Two building and grounds workers would be added later in the year to help maintain a new city hall.

Four part-time positions also would become full-time, which brings total new employee costs to $882,230.

“It’s important that we are being realistic – finally – about our staff needs,” council member Stephan Podrygula said. “We’re facing reality. We may not like the reality, but we’re facing it.”

Stewart said the positions would be the first consideration for removal if the council wants to cut back the projected mill levy to the 2021 level. The cut would eliminate about $400,000.

Many of the positions would be added over the course of the year. The ongoing expense would be about $1.2 million a year before consideration of any pay raises. Stewart said he is not comfortable adding the positions without knowing future revenues are there to sustain them.

“I’m not interested in asking for these positions to turn around next year and have to cut positions, which right now, to be honest with you, we’re still at a significant risk of,” he said. “Because, again, I think we only increased revenue projections by a couple hundred thousand and we’ve asked for almost $800,000 in new position costs. The only way that I can, in good faith, give a recommendation to follow through with that would be if the council is committed to, once that NAWS obligation is met within the next two or three years, that some of that money needs to come across in tax relief to help support some of our general fund obligations.”

Stewart continued to support using some of those future sales tax dollars now going to NAWS for community facilities. The NAWS sales tax had been redirected to a community facilities fund for several years.

The city also is facing a 28% increase in employee health insurance premiums in its self-funded plan with Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota. Stewart is recommending the city implement an employee wellness program and hire a health insurance specialist to review BCBSND numbers.

The council will hold a public hearing on the preliminary budget Sept. 7. The preliminary budget is posted on the city website at minotnd.org, in the finance department section.


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