Grand Forks leaders on Monday finalized a $189.4 million spending plan for the city in 2020.
City Council members unanimously approved Mayor Michael Brown’s proposed budget, which includes more money for police officers, moving the city’s dial-a-ride transportation service “in-house” to save money, socking away money to redevelop Town Square and a raft of transportation and infrastructure improvements.
Council members gave preliminary approval to Brown’s budget in early August, and Monday’s vote made it official. Council members expressed a few concerns about some of the budget’s finer points -- or Grand Forks’ longer-term financial plans -- but none formally moved to change any part of the budget since Brown unveiled them at a meeting in mid-July.
The budget was approved quickly and with no discussion beforehand. The council’s unanimous vote was preceded by a public hearing on the city’s budget at which no one spoke.
City Administrator Todd Feland thanked Brown and the assembled council. He said Brown empowers city staff to “do great things” and that city staff appreciate council members’ support.
“We don’t take it for granted, because, in my history here, it always hasn’t been this terrific,” Feland said. “On a silent night, with a budget like this, that’s pretty extraordinary, so thanks. … When things kind of go really well at the end, it’s because, oftentimes, a lot of work goes on behind the scenes so that there’s less angst at the end.”
Council members started talking about the 2020 budget in April, when city finance staff already were meeting with department heads to go over their budget requests.
The city’s 2020 budget would spend about $20 million less than it plans to spend this year because it’s nearing the end of a multi-year, $150 million plan to build a new water treatment plant.
Brown’s budget would pay for its new spending with an expected $550,000 increase in state aid, a larger tax base and some reserve cash. Grand Forks residents’ property taxes wouldn’t go up under the new budget -- at least not the city’s share of them -- but the city is set to charge 1% to 4% more for some utilities.
The city is planning a Sept. 30 strategic planning session to go over its longer-term priorities.