A message from the Mayor
September 20, 2016
As we observed the anniversary of September 11 last week, we remembered the thousands of people who lost their lives on that tragic day. We will never forget them. Late last week, I took part in a ceremony to welcome new police officers into the City of Fargo organization. As I look at these young men and women who are willing to serve, I am filled with admiration for the dedication and zeal they exhibit in their sworn mission of protecting our community. We are now hiring the best and the brightest from around the Fargo-Moorhead metro area, in addition to recruiting from distant places such as California and Texas. Our police officers, under the leadership of Chief David Todd, are working within our community to build partnerships through positive interactions with our citizens. During a recent visit to the Madison neighborhood, one of our officers even entertained the crowd by offering his own rap. I encourage you to check out this video https://www.facebook.com/fargopolicedepartment/.
After I released my original recommendations for the 2017 budget, I engaged in substantive discussions with members of the City Commission about their thoughts on the draft document. I also asked them to convey their feelings on the current needs of our organization. We made adjustments after these conversations and I’m proud to say that we have addressed the ongoing needs of our growing city, while placing an emphasis on public safety, public health, public utilities and employee compensation. The general fund budget is proposed to modestly increase by 1.69% from the 2016 budget, while still offering our citizens a level of property tax relief through a two-mill levy reduction. With the loss of over $7 million of aid from the State of North Dakota, we cut our capital expense requests by 57.5%. If we look at the overall assessment of taxes in Fargo over the last 10 years, we have gone from an effective residential tax rate of 2.2% to just 1.2%. It is difficult to maintain a balance on the valuation rates of our homes, but we strive for a maximum annual increase of 4% to 5%. Fargo continues to see strong economic growth with a large number of jobs available in a metro area boasting a low unemployment rate of 2.5%. However, with the low commodity prices, we continue to be concerned about the strain being placed on those in our agricultural sector.
Fall is here and we are beginning to see the changes that remind us that winter is just around the corner. The City of Fargo is wrapping up several roadway projects in anticipation of the cold weather. I know that many of you have been inconvenienced through road closures and construction zones over the past several months, but I assure you it will be well worth it when we’re driving on those new, smooth roadways. We still have some flood walls that will be worked on throughout the fall. I am wondering what the public would think about naming our downtown flood wall after the late Mayor Denny Walaker. He always exhibited pride in the clay wall being erected to protect City Hall and viewed it as a sign that things were getting serious in the flood watch efforts. As a beloved flood fighter for the City of Fargo over so many years, I think it would be a fitting memorial to him.
I’m glad to report that the Fargo Fire Department has finished the remodel on Fire Station #1 on NP Avenue, which functions as the downtown fire headquarters. This renovation will ensure that current and future needs are met for the next 25 to 30 years. It also features an area where historical items from the department’s past can be displayed. The administrative staff and crews from Station #1 have moved back into their renovated headquarters in recent days. Watch for more information about an open house at a future date. Speaking of construction, work continues on site excavation for the City Hall Project. I encourage all of you to visit the project’s live stream at http:// www.cityoffargo.com/CityInfo/NewFargoCityHall/.
Last week, I released an important letter on the current status of the FM Area Diversion Project. If you haven’t had a chance to read it, please visit http://bit.ly/2cATgJe. This is a critical project necessary for our area’s future vitality.
Throughout the week of September 16-25, our community will host several events and activities as a part of National Welcoming Week (a list of events can be found at http://www.facebook.com/welcomingfmarea/. Designed to bring together immigrants and United States-born community members, this is the second year that our community has hosted this event. I encourage all of you to take part in some or all of the activities. Fargo strives to be a welcoming community each day of the year and this event helps to refocus attention on an important mission. Thanks for the work that all of you are doing to make this a fantastic community.