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Crafting a budget is always a challenge

It doesn’t seem like that long ago since the Minot City Council approved the 2020 budget, and, yet we’ve already approved the 2021 budget. And, like every year, we thank members of the public for being part of the process.

We were happy to hear from members of the community, as the public’s input is a welcome and valued part of the budgeting process. Department heads and Council members must consider the best interests of the entire community when crafting a municipal budget, and public input is an important piece of the puzzle.

The City of Minot’s approved budget for 2021 does not include any property tax increases. The 2021 budget is $143.5 million, a 47.48 percent reduction from the record $273.3 million budget for 2020. The 2020 mill levy of 121.29 is set to remain the same for 2021.

Why such a dramatic difference from 2020? Mostly, it’s due to a decline or completion of large capital projects and a change in the way some expenses are represented within the budget; in this case, those expenses are huge.

The City continues to fund flood protection and the Northwest Area Water Supply project, but the money for those projects that comes from our state and federal partners is no longer included in the city budget at the recommendation of auditors. Those figures had been included in the 2020 budget, but much of that money goes directly to contractors. Essentially, in many cases the City plays the role of a pass-through entity. So while the total budget looks much different this year, rest assured the City continues to push forward on the two largest infrastructure projects in our community’s history.

Spending on major projects is set to be down in 2021, with the only large new expenditures being a $2 million water main upsizing on Broadway and an increase of approximately $1 million to the street department. In 2020, the Council delayed construction of a fifth fire station planned in northwest Minot and a retaining wall project near City Hall; both projects have partial funding in the 2021 budget.

The 2021 budget represents countless hours of work by City of Minot employees and Council members. Officially, the budget process begins in early spring every year, and continues until final approval in September or October, but it’s essentially a year-round process because being good stewards of the public’s money is constantly on the minds of City employees and the Council.

Every budget cycle includes its own challenges, but the budget process this year has certainly been unique. Because of the financial uncertainty created by the coronavirus pandemic, we tasked City department heads with looking for ways to be creative with their budget requests. We challenged them to think differently. We gave them direction, and we encouraged them to find ways to keep the City’s property tax rate flat for the upcoming year. And they responded.

Thanks to everyone’s hard work and collaboration, we put together a budget that doesn’t raise property taxes. We put some projects on hold to help us remain financially flexible. We held the line on fees charged by the City. We included incremental pay raises for City employees as we strive to maintain our low turnover rates. And we did this in the face of an ongoing pandemic that continues to wreak havoc with our economy and cloud our financial forecasting. I’m proud of the 2021 budget we constructed and approved.

To the members of the City staff and those members of the public who participated in the budget process, I say thank you. You all play an important role in the City of Minot’s budgeting process.

Sincerely, City Hall.

You can find more about what’s happening at the City of Minot at minotnd.org, or find us on Facebook and Twitter. We’d also encourage you to sign up for our monthly electronic newsletter on our website.

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