More sales tax revenue, a larger tax base, and another injection of reserve cash would bankroll a $1.3 million public spending hike in Grand Forks.
Mayor Mike Brown’s proposed 2020 budget for the city’s general fund would spend $1.29 million more on personnel, which includes staff raises and adding a fire training captain and two more police officers. It also would spend another $114,000 on larger-scale purchases such as replacement city vehicles and equipment, plus $73,000 more on “contract services” such as leases for city office space, city prosecutors’ services, or consultant work. The proposal would cut $77,000 to “other operations” -- city staff said the bulk of that decrease represents absorbing into the personnel budget four police officers' salaries that were previously grant-subsidized, which is one reason for the $1.29 million increase to personnel spending. And a higher proportion of 911 calls from the University of North Dakota and Grand Forks County, plus some budget shuffling, means the city expects to pay about $45,000 less on shared 911 services.
In all, the mayor’s proposed budget would increase general fund spending by 3.24 percent.
The city would pay for a lot of that new spending with an expected bump in state sales tax revenue. North Dakota divvies that up among cities across the state, and state staff told Grand Forks to expect its share to increase by $550,000. The proposed budget would also point 2 percent -- a budgeted $193,000 -- of the city’s existing sales tax revenue away from economic development and toward the general fund.
The city would also pay for part of Brown’s proposed spending hike with more tax revenue from Grand Forks property owners, but not via a tax increase. City staff said that additional tax money would come from a larger tax base, not a higher-taxed one, as the city grows and expands. Property values in the city are “basically flat,” according to documents supplied to City Council members, but the larger tax base means the mayor’s budget anticipates an additional $515,000 in property taxes to the general fund.
And city staff also plan to use a combined $500,000 in surplus money from last year and reserve cash to pay for the spending hike. That’s about $540,000 less than planned in 2019’s adopted budget.
The general fund makes up about 23 percent of Grand Forks’ overall city budget. City staff are scheduled to present the mayor’s proposals for city utility funds, special revenue funds, the Alerus Center’s budget, and so on at a Committee of the Whole meeting on Monday, July 22. The council is scheduled to consider giving preliminary approval to the city budget in early August and final approval -- plus a public hearing -- in September.
Brown said at a Monday City Council meeting that the five “pillars” of the city budget process are ensuring a city that’s safe; affordable; committed to its youth; offers rich, cultural, and healthy experiences; and has opportunities for everyone to be engaged.