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During the Monday, Dec. 20, 2021, West Fargo City Commission meeting, City Administrator Tina Fisk presented the City Commission with a plan to research a ½ cent public safety sales tax for voter approval in 2022. The sales tax will add funding for the West Fargo Fire and Police Departments without needing large increases from property taxes. (Video of the meeting can be found at https://youtu.be/IJFjO7Du4r8?t=2793.)
“After an analysis of the West Fargo Fire and Police Departments rising demands for service and projected long-term budgetary needs, it became clear that these departments will need large increases in funding in the short term to maintain the current levels of services due to the City’s continued growth,” City Administrator Tina Fisk said.
In the most recent census, the City’s population rose 49.5% and is projected to rise to over 45,000 by 2027. The West Fargo Fire Department’s calls for service rose 300% from 2017 to 2020, and the West Fargo Police Department’s calls for service were expected to rise 20% from 2017 to 2021.
Staff evaluated strategies to address the upcoming need for funding – besides continuing to rely exclusively on property taxes or cutting services – and a sales tax devoted to public safety rose to the top for three reasons. First, sales tax is shared with members outside of the City who also use police and fire services but don’t pay property taxes. Second, the sales tax will provide public safety departments with a relatively stable and consistent funding source to reduce the demand on the general fund, which is funded primarily through property taxes. Third, improvements related to police and fire services are currently proposed to be funded with capital improvement sales tax revenue. This would change the funding source to public safety sales tax. This would allow the City to use more capital improvement sales tax toward infrastructure projects, which could help decrease special assessments.
Following the presentation, Commissioners voted to allow staff to continue researching the sales tax ballot question. This will include engaging with businesses, business organizations, and residents, finalizing growth plans, further financial analysis, and drafting a ballot question. Individuals who would like to submit feedback on the public safety sales tax should submit comments and questions through this form. Staff will return to the City Commission at a future meeting with the results of the research and a draft ballot question for approval.