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Grand Forks City Council hears first part of proposed 2023 city budget

Council members will give approval to the preliminary 2023 budget on Aug. 1 and approval for the final budget is set for Sept. 19.

Grand Forks City Hall
Grand Forks City Hall, 255 N. 4th St. Sam Easter / Grand Forks Herald
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GRAND FORKS – An increased focus on attraction and retention efforts for Grand Forks city workers is reflected in the proposed 2023 salary plan and benefits update. In the plan, city salaries are poised to increase by 4.13% for a collective $1.75 million next year.

Mayor Brandon Bochenski said the strong focus on paying competitive wages is an important factor of next year's proposed city budget, which is being compiled by city staff.

The mayor said institutional knowledge among veteran city empoyees is important, and "any time you lose someone there’s a cost to having to retrain" a new employee.

City workers also saw an increase to salaries this year after relatively small raises were given during the course of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Along with the 2023 salary plan, council members on Monday reviewed the mayor’s budget preview for next year, including projections on sales and use tax collections. Budgeting for 2023 is equal to 2021 actuals at $29.1 million, a 13.5% increase from 2022’s budget of $25.65 million. The breakdown of revenue streams includes $6 million toward the general fund, $2.2 toward the economic development fund, $3.5 million toward the street/infrastructure fund, $6.4 million toward street/water infrastructure, $10 million toward the Alerus Center and $1 million toward use tax, which Finance Director Maureen Storstad said is dedicated for flood protection.

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The proposed $45.8 million general fund budget for 2023 is a 6.19% increase compared to $43.1 million this year. The general fund for the city is primarily funded by property taxes.

The value of a “mill,” the property tax building block that represents 1/1,000th of the value of a piece of land, is expected to increase by next year at an estimated value of $254,645. The actual mill value this year is $243,634.

Council members also reviewed the budget performance report for quarter one this year. Sales tax collection for the first five months of 2022 is currently at $11.6 million, a little over the $11.2 million collected within the first five months last year.

The first-quarter collections of state aid for 2022 is at $875,451, higher than the $778,280 collected during the first quarter of 2021.

First-quarter collections on highway users — otherwise known as gas tax — is down 18% this year at $631,603, $178,665 less than what was collected during 2021’s first quarter. Storstad said the number reflects the impact of higher gas prices and staff will continue to monitor those numbers.

Council members will give approval to the preliminary 2023 budget on Aug. 1 and approval for the final budget is set for Sept. 19.

READ MORE GRAND FORKS CITY NEWS
Council newcomers Rebecca Osowski, Ward 2, and Tricia Lunski, Ward 4, newly elected Grand Forks Municipal Judge Kerry Rosenquist and reelected council member Dana Sande, Ward 6, were sworn in on Tuesday night

In other council news Monday, council members:

  • Approved a financial failsafe in bringing Fufeng Group to the city. The letter of credit will let the city collect up to $5 million from the Chinese agribusiness if its proposed corn mill project fails. The letter of credit is with MUFG Bank, the largest bank in Japan.
    During Monday’s meeting, City Attorney Dan Gaustad updated council members on a revision to the terms of the letter of credit. Gaustad said the changes are related to the automatic renewal of the letter of credit, which was originally set to renew annually until the city provides notice that the facility is substantially completed and the developer has paid the pre-assessment costs required under the development agreement.
    The new modifications provided by the bank still make it so the letter of credit would be automatically renewed, unless the bank provides notice 60 days in advance of the renewal date that it isn't going to extend the letter of credit. Gaustad said with the modifications provided, the city has added a third way the city can tap into the letter of credit, which entails Fufeng needing to find a letter of credit that’s equal to what the city already has from the MUFG Bank if that 60-day notice is given.
    If Fufeng doesn’t provide a replacement letter of credit within 45 days after the notice is received, the city could then receive the $5 million. Council member Katie Dachtler dissented and Kyle Kvamme was absent.
  • Approved liquor licenses to Target and Libre Bar & Nightclub. Target, which was approved for a Class Two liquor license, plans to open a bottle shop called Target Wine & Spirits. The bottle shop will have its own separate entrance at the 32nd Avenue South location. The owners of Libre Bar & Nightclub have approval for a Class One liquor License. The establishment will be located at 3450 Gateway Drive, the former site of the Westward Ho building.
  • Approved the Grand Cities Area Transit to purchase a transportation data system in the amount of $234,000. The TransTrack System will provide a data and reporting system to combine data from various software packages, including the CAT fare collection system and operations systems to simplify National Transit Database reporting. It also would support transit asset management and provide key metric dashboards to the staff and managers.
Related Topics: GRAND FORKS CITY COUNCIL
Meghan Arbegast grew up in Security-Widefield, Colorado. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Journalism from North Dakota State University in Fargo, in 2021.

Arbegast wrote for The Spectrum, NDSU's student newspaper, for three years and was Head News Editor for two years. She was an intern with University Relations her last two semesters of college.

Arbegast covers news pertaining to the city of Grand Forks/East Grand Forks including city hall coverage.

Readers can reach Arbegast at 719-235-8640 or MArbegast@gfherald.com.

Pronouns: She/Her
Languages: English
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