Apparently, the “eyes are bigger than the belly” of the Fargo Park Board. Or at least the council’s appetite for big spending is more important than its ability to raise donations.
The council recently authorized the construction of two phases of the Fargo Sports Complex, at an estimated total cost of $127.5 million. The sources of funding for the project are $95.1 million in tax revenue and $32.4 million in private funds.
Throughout the history of the sports complex process, the council has been strongly committed to finding private funds to cover some of the costs.
As recently as last spring, the board expressed hopes of raising at least 50% of the total cost through private contributions.
Since pledging to meet the 50% private fund target, the council has increased project spending by almost $50 million (essentially adding two ice patches), but hasn’t raised no new private dollars.
Of course, Fargo taxpayers will have the biggest bill. When construction of the first phase of the project was approved, public funds (taxes) were expected to total $38 million. Now we will be paying well over double – $95.1 million. But that’s not a new tactic for the Fargo Park Board.
From 2018 to 2023, the Park District increased the mill tax used to calculate its share of property taxes by nearly 28%. But due to new construction and rising home values in Fargo, the Park District’s total spending has increased 87% over the same period.
One final item for Fargo ratepayers to ponder: The board first approved a smaller factory tax increase to fund the sports complex in October 2021. The motion approving this increase included a provision that the larger tax high would be refunded to taxpayers if further private donations could not be secured. Now, instead of getting a refund, taxpayers are being billed $95 million for this project.
The idea of splitting the bill for a project of this magnitude between tax revenues and private contributions sounded like a good idea every time a member of the park’s board of directors brought it up. It would be great if this became a reality instead of a rosy promise.
David Berg lives in Fargo.
This letter does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Forum Editorial Board or the owners of the Forum.