Williston Sets 2013 Budget | VideoEvan Kruegel | 9/28/2012
"Just to try to stay competitive we increased salaries 10 percent this past year, we`re adding about 40 new employees, there`s so many increases just in general operating expenses that are going up", Said Mayor Ward Koeser.
There`s a misconception state-wide that the city of Williston is getting rich off the revenue streams from oil production. That simply isn`t the case, so the city is having to budget for tremendous growth, without surplus money.
"The state in 2011 took in roughly a billion and a half dollars in oil production taxes. Williston`s share of that money that we got back was about a million and a half dollars. So essentially, Williston`s revenue stream from oil was about 1/10th of 1 percent of what the state took in", Said Finance Commissioner Brad Bekkedahl.
While the city may not be making large revenue off of oil production, they are having to pay for the growth. They`ve had to hire 40 new city employees for 2013, along with 6 new police-man and some new EMT`s.
"We`ve added a number of people in public works, the planning department, the building department, the auditors office, we`ve had to add people just everywhere. We have about 140 employees now so to add 40 more you can see that`s a big increase", Said Koeser.
The budget sits at just under 81 million dollars, but the city is only expecting to generate around 52 million in revenue. That leaves 29 million dollars that the city will need to receive through oil impact grants or other funding.
"I`m not comfortable with. 29 million dollar deficit, but I have to rely on the state to be a partner with us as they have in the past to help pay for this expansion”, Said Bekkedahl.
The city generates just over 2 million dollars a year from property taxes. They haven`t raised those taxes significantly in 15 years, but they`ve decided to add a 3 percent increase to the 2013 budget.
"I actually feel good about what we were able to accomplish in our budget cycle this time. Of the larger cities, we`re still one of the lowest in property taxes”, Said Koeser.
Home owners never like a raise in property taxes, but a 3 percent increase only factors out to about 10 dollars more per year. And for the city, its not a whole lot of money, but its enough to make a difference.
"We felt the 3 percent increase was something we had to do. Even though its only 65,000 dollars, it`s a help”, Said Bekkedahl.
The city doesn`t expect the growth to slow down any time soon, so even with limited revenue, they need to budget for the future.