October 12, 2011

City okays $6 million budget

By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor

Watford City taxpayers will see a 13 percent increase in their taxes to fund the city’s new 2012 budget. But considering that the city’s budget grew from $3,657,772 in 2011 to $6,028,746 in 2012, an overall tax hike for city taxpayers from $215,470 to $243,817 seems like a pretty good deal.
According to Brent Sanford, city mayor, the city found itself in a rather unusual position this year when it came to setting its mills and the total dollars that the city needed to collect from the taxpayers.
“Watford City has been at the maximum number of mills allowed by state law for many years,” stated Sanford at the Oct. 6 budget hearing. “Last year we collected $217,000 from city taxpayers.”
But, according to Sanford, the State of North Dakota said that our taxable valuations in McKenzie County were too low, and as a result, the taxable valuation of all property was increased 36 percent.
And that taxable valuation increase put the city in the tough position of either lowering mill levies or increasing taxes.
The city council chose to do a combination.
“If we hold to the maximum mills, we would tax the taxpayers $293,000, which would be a 36 percent increase,” stated Sanford. “We don’t have to do that. We can have a balance.”
The risk of lowering the mill levy, according to Sanford, is that such an action may not be looked upon favorably by the Governor and the North Dakota Legislature.
“I can look the Governor in the eye and say we’re not going to increase our taxes by 36 percent because the oil boom increased our property valuations by 36 percent,” stated Sanford. “I think that a 15 to 17 percent reduction in the mills is reasonable. We can justify that because of the increase in property values.”
As a result of the city council’s action, Watford City’s mills were decreased 17.64 percent from 96.5 to 81.53 mills.