Published May 9, 2024

Recap: Minot Budget Tour Comes to an End

Written by
K.L. Collom
| The Dakotan

This article has been update on May 10 at 5:26

Minot City Council met Wednesday in a “Special Meeting” to wrap up this week's budget tours where proposed budgets for 2025 were brought before the Council. Along with the various departments that presented at city hall, the Council traveled throughout the city touring multiple municipalities including the Minot International Airport. All Council members were present with the exception of Carrie Evans (who is not running for re-election), as well as three candidates running for City Council this June. Mayor Tom Ross asked all members as well as the candidates present for their opinions on the week's meetings, as well as their budget priorities.

Alderman Mark Jantzer led off the roundtable discussion by thanking those involved in the process this week and pushed for no tax increase in 2025. Jantzer stated, “we need to limit ourselves to the budget of dollars that was used in 2024.” He continued by advocating for maintaining “what we have” in reference to the city employees and to continue to pay them “competitive wages and provide good benefits.” Jantzer, who has served since 2008, finished by pushing for better fleet management and vehicle replacement funds due to “supply chain issues and inflation" have made it difficult to procure things the way that we have in terms of equipment.

City Council Vice-President Steve Podrygula, first elected to the Council in 1998, echoed Jantzers comments towards city staff before calling for “civility and cooperation and as much collegiality as possible” in regards to frustrated citizens who may be upset with the city council. Podrygula stated to not let the “insanity that's at the national level and even in Bismarck pervade our discussions.” He would go on to say “we can operate more efficiently and effectively and hold the line on property taxes, but you get what you pay for.” Podrygula commented on possibilities of City employees increasing efficiency and pushed for an incentive program for employees that find better ways of doing their jobs; similar to what the military offers. He would finish his time speaking by ending with a plea for city management and City Council members to get out “in the trenches and (see) what people do.”

City Councilwoman Lisa Olson, who is running for a seat in the State House this fall, began her time remarking on the results of the past city survey and pushed to look at a retirement plan for public safety employees. She talked about property taxes, specifically a property tax credit called the Homestead Credit that’s worth $500. The Alderwoman then referred to a recent study about better police facilities saying “something needs to be done…we can look at our current facility, we can look at building a new facility…whatever option we take it is going to be expensive.” Then finished by saying “...we might be a little foolish…” to talk about not raising property taxes and to try to refrain from having unnecessary department cuts just for the sake of cutting taxes without having the proper dialogue necessary to understand what the residents of Minot want.

Next, City Council President Paul Pitner began by talking about the “pride” he takes in these meetings and the great “leadership throughout the city.” Pitner wanted an increase to the Fire Department staff to help “response times, efficiencies…morale within the fire department” and to have “city hall” type meetings with the public. He would go on to laud programs that were created through Economic Development in the city and to continue to push for Minot to be a “Good place to do business.” Finally, Pitner noted that he agreed with Alderwoman Olson on not needing to raise taxes but to “have the goal…of no property tax increase…but we have to be realistic.” He went on to cite the need to fully fund better roads throughout Minot.

Scott Burlingame, City Councilman since 2022, began his comments by saying “I do believe our priority should be to hold the line on property taxes…as Lisa said, there is the primary tax credit going in effect” again referring to the Homestead Credit. Burlingame went on to advocate to protect current staff saying “they’re our neighbors” and pushed for rewards for city employees who help improve efficiency in their departments. He would then say that he would want to increase things such as franchise fees to help prevent the “burden (of) other aspects of the budget.”

Mayor Tom Ross started his time talking about what he referred to as “our number one asset is our people.” and wanting to also incentivize city employees who help save the city money. Ross went on to mention how City department heads have been asked to do more by making “tough decisions” and to, as a Council, look at those departments that may need more help than others and how to best get them the assistance they need. The Mayor then stated “we can’t change the past” talking about living off dividends off of past “incredible investments”, and alternatively now having to deal with decisions of previous regimes that, in hindsight, may have not been the best and are now costing more than initially projected. He would finish by saying that “.this process will produce the best budget for all of the city of Minot.” Saying how the ongoing process and debate is the most important part of setting everything else up that goes on for the year.

Finally, the three candidates for City Council that attended the meetings (Mike Blessum, Scott Samuelson, and Leif Snyder) were invited to speak as well. Blessum speak on the potential for fees between different city municipalities as a way to gain more city revenue. He mentioned how the budget is set for an additional 13 Police Officers who are not currently hired. Blessum pointed out how that part of the budget could be pulled from to help address other areas, and that “Economic development needs to be revamped top to bottom.” Samuelson then spoke on his “awesome experience” the past couple days and how he learned “about government and how inefficient it is.” He addressed property tax as well, Samuelson said “we have to hold the line on property tax. There is no if ands or butts.” Samuelson pointed out how older generations are less apt to use things such as the Homestead Credit. Leif Snyder was the final candidate to speak, he mentioned the inefficiencies in city departments, and also advocated for additional Fire Department staff. Then speaking on the Minot Airport, and the need for improved infrastructure and the airport staff having to “Frankenstein doors together”, and their need for improved signage that wasn’t seen “until it was pointed out”. He would finally go on to speak on the need to be “lean” in regards to staffing and saying “we have to hold the line on taxes”, echoing a large sentiment among the candidates.

The Dakotan will continue to offer coverage on Minot City Council meetings and this year's election cycle.

You can view the full meeting below.

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