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Taxes going up

The 24-mill increase in Jamestown property taxes listed in the preliminary city budget will stay in the final budget.

Jamestown Mayor Dwaine Heinrich called the increase one of the largest requested by a City Council in Jamestown history during a special budget meeting Monday afternoon.

Heinrich said the city's budget problems were a combination of spending from reserves in previous years and the loss of about $500,000 in funding the city received from the state previously from oil extraction taxes.

The increase of 24 mills amounts to $108 annually per $100,000 in residential property value for the upcoming tax year. In addition, the City Council approved 5 percent increases for the base service rates for water, wastewater and some garbage fees. Residential and commercial garbage collection rates and recycling fees were not raised.

Utility increases will amount to about $1.59 per month for residences and will generate about $247,000 in annual revenue to the city.

The general fund budget includes $8.1 million in revenues including $782,000 in transfers from the utility funds to the general fund.

The City Council approved an expenditure budget of $8.2 million that includes a 2.5 percent step raise and 1 percent cost-of-living raise for city employees. The proposal passed on a 4-1 vote with Councilman Steve Brubakken dissenting.

Deputy Auditor Jay Sveum told the City Council the cost-of-living allowance increases all salaries including base wages paid to new hires. The 2.5 percent step raise compensates employees who have worked for the city longer at a higher wage than new hires.

A proposal to increase wages by 4.5 percent failed on a 2-3 vote with council members Pam Phillips and Dan Buchanan in favor and Heinrich, Brubakken and council member David Steele opposed.

Brubakken said the wage increases were too high and that the tax increases were high and coming at a time when the region's economy was not good.

The City Council unanimously agreed to fund a sixth full-time firefighter at the Jamestown Fire Department.

Heinrich called the tax increase a "bitter pill to swallow."

Steele said the city could consider an additional half percent sales tax during the next year with the proceeds dedicated to the general fund.

"That could be done but it would take a vote of the people," Heinrich said.

A final public hearing on the budget is scheduled for the Oct. 1 City Council meeting. At that time, a final vote will be made.

Government budgets must be certified to the Stutsman County auditor by Oct. 10 so tax statements can be calculated and distributed.

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