Resolutions to adopt the 2020 tax levy and city budget was approved Monday night by the Fergus Falls City Council by identical votes of 7-1.
The 2020 proposed levy will stand at $6,604,784, a 3.73% increase over the 2019 levy rate of $237,598. The tax rate will increase by half a percent.
Councilman Anthony Hicks was the lone dissenting vote in both resolutions.
According to city finance director Bill Sonmor, both the levy and the estimated tax rate have seen a decrease from the September figures, which were 4.95% for the levy and a 1.68 increase in the tax rate.
Based on budget assumptions, which includes a 2.8% increase in wages, a 5.5% jump in city utilities and a 4% increase in both worker’s compensation and liability insurance, the proposed budget for Fergus Falls in 2020 will see revenues of $42,164,885 measured against expenditures of $40,717,099.
Prior to approving the resolutions on the tax levy and city budget, a hearing was held for the benefit of the public. Mike Rude and Jerome Anderson both expressed disappointment in the sharp increase of their taxes. Mayor Ben Schierer pointed out to Rude that it was the county assessor that determines the market value of property in the city of Fergus Falls.
Anderson said he has seen his business taxes jump for $1,100 to $1,600, an increase of 49.3%.”
“I just wanted to say I am not happy,” Anderson said. “You could have stepped it up a few increments a time and not go up 49%. That’s exorbitant. If it would have jumped up 10% I wouldn’t be here.”
Sonmor stated his belief the increases Anderson and others are seeing are not at the county assessor’s realm but at the state legislative level - the property tax system.
“We can have the discussion I just don’t want you to get your hopes up,” Sonmor said.
Schierer said he would like to see the council have a public discussion sometime in 2020 of what the city can and cannot do in regard to taxes.
The council also passed a resolution on Ordinance 94, which amended two city codes (2.27 and 2.37) and prevailing sections of city code Chapter 4.
A resolution by the council acknowledged a conflict of interest declaration for a small cities development grant.
Among the items the council voted in favor of on the consent agenda were:
• A resolution approving 2019 city budget adjustments.
• A resolution approving a 2020 lobbyist services contract with Joel Carlson.
• A resolution approving the 2020 Community Arena agreement.
• A resolution approving the purchase of a garbage truck, declaring Unit 223 as surplus property and authorizing its disposal.
• A resolution authorizing the Fergus Falls Police Department to enter into an memorandum of understanding (MOU) with M State for sexual assault and other forms of sexual violence.