Tony Gehrig: The Responsible Approach To Fargo's 2016 Budget

Fargo’s preliminary budget is 5% higher than 2015, with double digit growth in property tax taken from residents and businesses. The Mayor, who initially called for a 2-3% increase for the 2016 budget, has proposed a $94.5 million budget which adds 16 new employees, additional healthcare benefits, 1.25% COLA increase in pay, 1.8% decrease in property taxes, a $27 million city hall, and millions of dollars in new capital spending. Some of that we agree on, some of it we don’t.

Now that we have a more complete picture of the needs of our city and how much we expect to take in through taxes, we must have a vigorous debate about what should stay, what should go, and how much we should allow the budget to grow year after year. I have been happy to engage that debate.

[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]My proposal will not reduce the amount of Fargo employees called for by the Mayor. My plan will not reduce benefits or pay to our employees, quite the opposite. My plan will not take away from schools, as many people mistakenly conclude. My plan does not reduce services.[/mks_pullquote]

Most of you by now have heard my proposal to cut property taxes. It has always been my goal to reduce property taxes to the point where our General Fund budget grows between 2-3%, around $93 million, which is a responsible and sustainable rate for a thriving city like Fargo.  I want to be specific about what my plan doesn’t do and what it does do.

My proposal will not reduce the amount of Fargo employees called for by the Mayor. My plan will not reduce benefits or pay to our employees, quite the opposite. My plan will not take away from schools, as many people mistakenly conclude. My plan does not reduce services.

My plan does provide for the needs of our city, and reduces the excess line by line. My plan does allow our budget to grow to record levels while still cutting property taxes on home and business owners. For those who don’t agree that business owners should receive a reduction, I would simply point out that the majority of business owners in Fargo are local, they are our neighbors. My plan does add as many employees as the Mayor has called for. My plan does add to the pay and benefits of city employees same as the Mayor’s plan. My plan does put the taxpayers first, with more money in their pockets.

My approach to the budget is very pragmatic. My approach puts the taxpayers above all else, while still providing for our departments who in turn provide exceptional services. I have personally gone line by line through the budget and know that this plan works.

There is no need to accept a 12% increase in property taxes and 5% increase in the General Fund. Simply accepting that rate of growth is irresponsible. We can have a record high budget at $93 million and a significant 10-15% property tax reduction in Fargo, and that is my proposal.

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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