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Moorhead sees growth in tax base

MOORHEAD -- Moorhead City Council members had been squaring off for a budget battle, but Monday's meeting of the council's committee of the whole yielded something different - good news.

City Manager Michael Redlinger said new numbers show the taxable value of property in the city has grown about $93 million, with most of that coming from new growth, as well as revised assessments on commercial property.

What it will likely mean for taxpayers, Redlinger said, is that the 2010 tax bill for a home valued at $137,800 would drop by $107, when all of the local taxing jurisdictions are considered, which include the Moorhead School District and the county.

Under a plan presented by Redlinger on Monday, the city's tax levy would still go up by the 7.62 percent the council approved with its preliminary budget and levy in September, raising an additional $527,000 for the city.

However, because the taxes would now be spread differently, the city's portion of the taxes on a $137,800 home would increase by $9, not the $39 initially proposed in September.

That initial proposed tax increase has not been sitting well with at least three council members, who said they would oppose it when a final budget and levy vote is taken Dec. 14.

One of those council members, Mark Hintermeyer, said Monday that the growth in tax base was good enough news that in the interest of finalizing a budget he would vote for a tax increase, though he maintained that the city has the wherewithal to dip into its $10 million worth of reserves to meet revenue needs next year.

Nancy Otto, who has also been leaning toward using reserves instead of raising taxes, called Monday's news an indication that Moorhead is on the right track.

Mayor Mark Voxland said that while the tax picture appears brighter for residents, the overall financial picture remains gloomy for the city, which faces the possibility of further cuts in state aid before the end of the year.

If that happens, Voxland said, the city, which has already lost more than a million dollars to state unallotments, would have two options: Dip into its reserves, or take advantage of a state law that would allow the city to increase its levy to match the cuts.