Currently, police and fire department expenses come from the general fund through property taxes. Using sales tax to support police and fire services is a viable solution because everyone who could potentially use these services, not just property owners, contributes to it. When you consider that only 37% of the arrests made from January 2020 through April 2022 were West Fargo residents, it is important that the departments’ funding includes revenue that comes from more than just property owners.
A sales tax funding mechanism also helps to relieve financial pressure in multiple areas. First, it helps decrease the share of the general fund that the police and fire departments need. On average, the public safety departments combined account for about 80% of the general fund budget, leaving just 20% for the remaining 11 department funds.
Second, a police and fire sales tax will help the City keep the capital infrastructure sales tax fund more targeted. Currently, capital improvements from every department are covered in this budget. This includes items such as buildings, fire trucks, specialty gear and squad cars. For example, funding for the new $18.5 million fire department 24/7 staffed station and headquarters will come from this fund. However, this fund also covers financial support for street, water and sewer construction projects that offset the use of special assessments. By shifting police and fire capital improvements to the police and fire sales tax, more funds will be available in the capital infrastructure sales tax fund to lessen property owner’s special assessments and local share of cost for upcoming construction projects.