The Williston City Commission passed a $165 million budget for 2020, approving levies of $5 million on Tuesday. The budget is about $15 million more than for 2019, with significant increases coming from emergency services due to increased calls for service.
City Auditor John Kautzman, Administrator David Tuan, and Finance Commissioner Brad Bekkedahl presented the budget to commissioners on Tuesday, Sept. 10. Tuan noted that unlike previous years, budget projections were required earlier in the year, creating an “interesting development” in regards to preparing the budget.
“With that in mind, the department has worked very hard,” Tuan told the commissioners. “We’re quite happy with what we think are reasonable increases to provide the services that this community needs. You’re seeing some very moderate changes, and in some departments no change at all.”
As Tuan stated, many departments showed slight increases to their budgets, but the most significant increases were for the city’s emergency services departments. The Police department budget increased more than $2 million from 2019, and the ambulance budget increased by nearly $1 million.
“I think that’s something that’s not surprising for a lot of people to see,” Tuan explained. “The calls for service continue to go up in this town, and we’re meeting that demand. But there’s a cost to it. There’s a cost to it in staff, in equipment and we’re happy to say, on the dispatch end, we’re making some pretty big strides to meet that demand and receive the calls from the public in a more efficient way.”
Another increase came in the form in infrastructure improvement, with the roads and streets budget increasing from $3.6 million to $4.1 million. While Tuan said the budget increase may be “outside the norm” when compared to other cities, he added that he felt it was moderate for a North Dakota city, especially one that has experienced the type of growth that Williston has in recent years.
“This is more than you’d typically see,” he said. “But the growth alone in Williston, I’m sure from year to year, exceeds this amount. You can see the improvements that are being made in town and the level of service we continue to provide. I think we’re good stewards of the dollars that we appropriate, so it’s still a good value. As Commissioner Bekkedahl put it, what we’re requesting from property tax and from the pockets of the citizens is still very mindful of not increasing that more than we need to.”
Tuan added that the city is as conservative as possible when it comes to spending, looking for alternative options first before making budget requests, and looking for the best value when it comes to projects, equipment, staffing and services.
Tuan noted that the city is always working to keep costs and tax increases to a minimum in order to avoid increases to the taxpayers.
The City of Williston budget is a matter of public record and available upon request.