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Grand Forks City Council approves mayor's preliminary budget, OKs 1-mill property tax hike

Grand Forks City Council members voted Tuesday to approve Mayor Mike Brown's preliminary city budget, which includes a 1 mill-increase in property taxes.

The administration said the money would pay for a new fire station in the city's growing southeast.

Promoting public safety is one of the council's highest priorities, Council member Doug Christensen said.

An earlier proposal to raise property taxes another 0.5-mill to pay for a wage increase for library staff was withdrawn by the administration. City staff discovered recently that a study inaccurately reported that the library has less money than it really does.

The 1-mill increase will add $4.50 to the property tax bill of the owner of a $100,000 home. The city property-tax rate is now 109.07, meaning that same homeowner would pay $490.82 a year.

The amount the city collects with each mill will rise 3 percent next year to $153,481. According to city staff, 24 percent of the increase is from the rising value of existing properties in the city. The remaining 76 percent is from new construction and other changes.

The city expects to collect $16.9 million in property taxes next year, up from $16.2 million this year.

Not everyone was thrilled about the proposed increase.

Residents attending the council meeting to protest special assessments for repaving a section Columbia Road also sounded off about the increase.

"I feel like I'm being taxed to death," said Colleen Clausen, receiving a round of applause from audience members as she took her seat.

The decision to move the budget forward came after more than hour of motions and discussion from Council member Terry Bjerke. All of his motions were voted down or died for lack of a second. They included cutting the city's recycling program, terminating several city employee benefit programs and transferring about $1 million from various funds to the highway user fund.

Also included in the budget is a 3.9 percent increase in overall utility rates. Trash collection fees would increase by 3.5 percent, sewer and water fees by 4 percent each and stormwater fees by 7 percent.

A public hearing on the final adoption of the budget is set for Sept. 17.

Call Jewett at (701) 780-1108; (800) 477-6572, ext. 1108; or send email to