November 14, 2012

City’s budget to keep taxpayers’ costs the same

By Kate Ruggles
Farmer Staff Writer

Last year, the Watford City City Council approved a budget of $6,078,746, which was a record double over the previous year’s budget, and is just over half of what has been approved for Watford City in 2013.
The $11,411,372 Watford City budget consists mainly of wage and salary increases, and wages and salaries for new city employees, not to mention the Watford City Police Department’s increased expenditures and utility projects for the city, all of which reflect increases that are not out of the ordinary for a growing city.
So what accounts for about double in the city’s expenditures? Mainly building projects, according to Watford City Mayor Brent Sanford.
“The major general fund expenditure is the City Hall expansion project,” states Sanford. “The city is budgeting $1.6 million for the expansion.”
The Watford City City Hall houses Planning, Public Utilities, and Code Enforcement Departments, in addition to the Watford City Police Department, all of which have been added to the Watford City City Hall since the boom.
“This building is maxed out,” states Watford City’s new auditor, Peni Peterson. “We currently only have three offices and we are housing eight employees.”
The Planning, Public Utilities and Code Enforcement Officers all share an office, along with the support staff for those departments. The Watford City Police Department, which consists of nine officers, dispatch and Police Chief Slade Herfindahl, is also crammed into one office in the City Hall.
“We hope to expand the west and east sides of the building to create more office space, a more accommodating reception area and ADA compliant bathrooms,” Peterson states.
Peterson states that the city has already met with an architect, and hopes to start bidding the remodeling project after the first of the year. The total project time is expected to take six to eight months.
The Watford City Police Department, along with Watford City, will be paying out more in expenditures for wages and salaries, in part due to cost of living and in part due to having to hire more city employees and deputies.
“We also hope to be working through approximately $115 million in city projects in the coming year as compared with the $20 million worth of projects the city completed in 2012,” states Sanford.
These projects will be completed largely with the help of state impact grants.
“Last year the grant fund was very generous and we are hoping for the same this year,” states Sanford.
Though the 2013 Watford City budget is almost double that of last year, the amount needing to be levied is almost equal to the amount levied in 2012. In 2012, Watford City levied $243,817, and this year the city will levy $304,767, a difference of around $60,000.
To make matters more interesting, property valuations increased by 25 percent in 2013. However, because there is 25 percent more new construction in Watford City, officials are expecting 2013 property tax bills to be almost exactly that of bills in 2012.
“We were shooting for a zero percent increase for Watford City households and we got very close,” Sanford states. “This year’s property tax bills should be within 10 percent of last year’s city portion of residents’ tax statements.”
The budget was presented to the city council on Oct. 23, and was approved and adopted as presented.