Breaking down Fargo’s special assessment cap proposal

Published: Nov. 17, 2023 at 5:23 PM CST
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FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) - The City of Fargo’s Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) for the next few years includes a proposed 20% increase to special assessment caps for next year.

That 20% grabbed a lot of attention, and has since caused a lot of confusion for residents.

Mayor Tim Mahoney said one of the main things to take away from the proposal is that this new cap is coming due to a rise in construction costs.

“When it was presented by engineering, it’s a little confusing to the public, but we need to make some corrections so that we keep up with inflation. And unfortunately, yes, it’ll be more cost for the consumer,” Mahoney said. “We’re talking about full road re-construction. Water, waste water, and a new road goes into that neighborhood.”

The proposed increase was also in the works for a long time, according to Mahoney.

“I think people have to understand that we did a special assessment committee for 18 months and went through a variety of scenarios,” Mahoney said. “The one thing we did anticipate is that we’re trying to make sure the homeowner’s cap is low enough that it would not be a burden on them.”

It is a 20% increase to the cap, which has stayed nearly unchanged since 2013.

While this seems like a high number to many, City Engineer Tom Knakmuhs and Mayor Mahoney both say this will affect less than 200 households annually.

“Most of the people it’s going to impact are those benefiting from a street reconstruction project in a core neighborhood, and annually that’s about 180 properties. So as a percentage of the overall city, it’s a very small percentage of people actually being impacted,” Knakmuhs said.

There are four neighborhoods that this increase will specifically impact over the next four years: Hawthorne, Roosevelt, Horace Mann and Longfellow.

The city plans to focus on reconstructing roads to help improve these communities.

“The increase to the special assessments, it’s tied to the improvement, right? So the people that are really receiving the benefit of a new street, a new front of their house in a core neighboorhood, they’re the ones that are helping to pay for that. They’re paying about 20% in overall costs, but 80% is being subsidized by the city,” Knakmuhs said.

The 20% increase would be for the four-year CIP, but if inflation on construction costs continue to rise, the city may have to consider another increase, but they’re hoping to avoid that with this new proposal.

“We’re doing a full street reconstruction. Again it’s an improvement to their neighborhood,” Mahoney said. “The reality is for the community, we try to keep it somewhat fair, but the city takes the burden of that.”

Nothing is set in stone just yet, and for those who may be concerned or have questions, they are encouraged to contact the city with questions.

There is a meeting on December 11th where the Fargo City Commission will include a vote on whether or not to approve the new four-year CIP.