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City Council eyes $104 million budget

Posted 9/16/14 (Tue)

By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor

The Watford City City Council got its first look at a $104,410,690 budget during its regular meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 9. The proposed budget is a $71,410,690 million increase over last year’s budget of $33 million, and includes $60 million for a new Events Center that will be built in the Fox Hills Subdivision next to the soon-to-be-constructed new Watford City High School.
Two projects account for about $77 million of the total budgeted increase, according to Aaron Mitchell, Watford City Finance director. In addition to the new Events Center, the city is budgeting $17 million for the construction of a new sewer plant to handle the increased growth in city residents. The city is also budgeting to spend $7 million on street improvements on 2nd Ave. Southeast, 3rd Ave. Southwest and 5th Street West, and another $40,000 to make renovations to the front entrance and bathroom area of the Veterans Memorial Building.
“Funding for the Events Center will come from a Bank of North Dakota loan,” states Mitchell. “And the sewer plant project will be funded from the State Revolving Loan Fund.”
The new budget also provides for 13 new employees, which would increase the city’s staff from 42 to 55 employees. Of that number, seven new staff members would be added to the police department, including four  patrol officers, a school resource officer, a narcotics investigator/detective, and a community service officer. The budget also provides for hiring a civil engineering technician, as well as adding one employee each to the water, sewer and garbage departments and two employees to the road department.
While the proposed budget is just over a three-fold increase from last year, the majority of Watford City taxpayers could actually see their property taxes go down if the taxable valuation of their property does not increase.
According to Mitchell, the city’s proposed budget calls for a 42.05 mill levy that will generate $528,766 in local property taxes to help fund the proposed $104 million budget.
“Assuming that an individual’s home or business did not increase in value this past year, city residents should see a reduction in their city property tax,” states Mitchell.
During 2014, a city resident with property valued at $200,000 paid $457.05 in city property taxes, while a $200,000 commercial property paid $507.83 in taxes. Under the new budget, that same homeowner would see their taxes drop to $378.48, while the owner of a $200,000 commercial property would see their taxes drop to $420.54.
The city council will adopt its final budget at its Oct. 6 meeting.

City looks at creating Special Assessment District
For High School/Events Center Infrastructure Improvements

During Monday night’s meeting, the city council also considered the  creation of a Special Assessment District in the Fox Hills Subdivision to help pay for the roads, sewer and water infrastructure for the new Watford City High School and the city’s Events Center.
According to AE2S, an engineering firm that has been tasked with developing the options of the special assessment district, there are four main options with costs of the improvements ranging upwards to $30 million.
“This is the first time in 30 years that the city would have created a special assessment district,” stated Brent Sanford, Watford City mayor. “It would set a precedent for other developments if we decide to do this.”
However, according to Wyatt Voll, city attorney, the creation of a special assessment district could have an impact on the city’s bonding capabilities.
“One concern that I have with a $30 million special assessment district is its impact on the city’s bond rating,” stated Voll. “We don’t want to end up with a poor bond rating, which would hurt our ability to sell bonds in the future.
But according to Councilman Justin Voll, it is important for the city to give the concept serious consideration.
“We’ve talked about this for a while,” stated Voll. “With all of the construction that is planned at Fox Hills, it is important for us to have a game plan.”
Likewise, Sanford believes that a special assessment district could be a catalyst for more development in the subdivision.
“The special assessments would be paid for by the neighboring landowners,” stated Sanford. “And it would create a very good likelihood that development would occur on the site.