Tony Gehrig: Fargo Citizens Can Get A Tax Break Without Changing Budgets

Fargo residents have not seen a reduction in Fargo’s share of property tax for decades and recent state buy downs don’t affect Fargo’s share (they do buy down the school districts share). Our mil levy has held strong right around 57 mils despite property values skyrocketing. What does that mean for you? You live in the same house but find yourself paying much more in taxes to the city. Fargo is in a unique position where we can easily reduce the percent we take from each property owner yet still see our General Fund budget rise to record levels.

The plan is simple; reduce Fargo’s property tax mils from 57.25 down to 45 mils. That equates to a 20% reduction in how much you pay to the city. The common reaction is, “That sounds great, but what will we lose in services?” The beautiful thing is we won’t lose a thing! In fact, the General Fund will be at a record high.

[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#000000″ txt_color=”#ffffff”]The common reaction is, “That sounds great, but what will we lose in services?” The beautiful thing is we won’t lose a thing! In fact, the General Fund will be at a record high.[/mks_pullquote]

Since 2014, our General Fund has risen by about 6% or more a year, from $85 million to $90 million, and next year I estimate the General Fund will be $96 million. Likewise, property tax revenues have grown by leaps and bounds over the past few years. From 2014 to 2016 we have seen a 19% increase largely due to higher values. Most of us have received notice that our homes assessed values have risen. We do not need this extreme rate of growth to provide residents with city services.

With my 20% rate reduction in place, the General fund will be $92 million, a strong and sustainable increase of 2.3% over last year. As you can see, this is not a General Fund cut; this is a reduction in the rate of increase. This reduction could put up to hundreds of dollars back in your pocket, depending on the value of your home or business.

The average home owner will save about $100. If you own a home or business worth more than the average $178,000, the savings could be much more dramatic. When we as city leaders allow people to keep more of their own money, residents usually spend that disposable income within our local economy. For example, if I gave you $100 right now, would you run and put it in the bank or your IRA? Doubtful. You would more likely take your wife out to eat downtown, buy your child a new bike, or, in my case, put it towards fixing my fence that cracked last winter. This example illustrates how this cut means greater economic growth, re-investment into homes and businesses, and increased sales tax revenues. This is how we as local government officials can help grow our city.

When elected officials allow higher then needed taxation, we slow the economy. We preempt disposable income. If we can reduce taxes, we should. The people of Fargo have seen an increased tax burden for as long as I can remember. This is an opportunity to reverse that trend, in a small and very responsible way. You deserve this, many of you want this, and the math works!

I will be proposing this plan on May 26th at the regularly scheduled 5pm Fargo City Commission meeting at City Hall. If you support the plan, come make your voice heard.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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