The city of Minot’s budget could be close to 50 percent less than last year. That’s according to preliminary budget talks at Monday’s city council meeting. We explain where the dramatic decrease is expected to come from, and how COVID-19 may have affected it.

Finance Director Dave Lakefield says the 2021 budget is expected to be $143 million, that’s $129 million less than last year. He says the main reason for the huge drop is a change in how state funds and large projects are accounted for.

“Last year the push was made to include the state portion of flood control, NAWS projects, some of our DOT road projects to include the state’s portion of the projects in our budget as well.
So that increased the budget considerably last year,” said Lakefield.

As mayors across the country urge congress to send more than $300 billion directly to cities to help with lost revenue due to COVID-19, Lakefield says the city’s losses and gains have seemed to level out.

Lakefield added, “In most cases, those increased costs in precautionary measures are being offset by reductions in other areas. For example, travel. Our travel is way down. We aren’t traveling as nearly to the extent that we were before.”

Another example, CARES Act funding offset lost revenue at the airport, which took a major hit early on in the pandemic.

Mayor Shaun Sipma says even though the budget is projected to be less next year. It might not stay that way in years to come, as many projects that were put off this year, will come eventually. But, something that might excite taxpayers — property taxes.

“We see a flat budget in terms of property taxes. That can also be a little bit deceiving sometimes because if the home value is increased, but our mill levy rate is flat. It’s not going up, it’s not going down,” added Sipma.

There will be a Q&A session at the next city council meeting for the public to attend and ask questions about the budget. Then the budget will go forward for the first and second reading.

Lakefield says city officials are also anticipating the money that the North Dakota Emergency Commission approved earlier this week. That money will go into the city’s general fund, and would not be reflected on the budget.