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Devils Lake 2016 budget: lower mill levy, higher flood protection costs

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Devils Lake, ND (WDAZ TV) - The City of Devils Lake approved its budget for 2016, which include some hefty new costs.

How is the city paying for it? And will residents see bigger tax and utility bills as a result?

It costs about ten million dollars per year to run a city the size of Devils Lake. That includes everything from police and fire, to sanitation and utilities. For 2016, the city is planning to keep costs roughly the same.

Terry Johnston/City Administrator: “We haven't really levied additional dollars over the last five, six years.”

Devils Lake has actually lowered the mill levy next year, thanks to a flurry of development in town.

Johnston says, “It was about 95 mills last year and it'll be about 92 next year.”

Dick Johnson/Devils Lake mayor: “Because the city's expanding with new subdivisions, new businesses, and our evaluations are going up, we're able to drop the mills so people won't see a tax increase on the city part.”

Johnston adds, “I'd say a lot of the older homes would see a small decrease. Some of the homes, because the sales have been high, will see an increased value so they'll probably stay about the same.”

The big new expense for Devils Lake will be the 12 mile embankment surrounding the city. The Army Corps of Engineers finished building it earlier this year.

Johnson says, “We've assumed the operations and the maintenance on the dike, it takes a special mower with those steep embankments.”

Maintenance costs on the embankment are estimated at about $200,000 per year, with a one-time $200,000 cost for the mower. The city says it will pay for that by increasing utility rates, but locals shouldn't see too big an increase on their bill.

Johnston explains, “We're looking at about a two dollar per month increase on an average person's utility bill.”

Officials say homeowners could get more of a property tax break if a proposed oil refinery, and the taxes that come with it, is built in Devils Lake.

Johnston says, “If we think what's coming is coming it will also help us a lot with our rates.”

The city did lower sales tax projections for 2016 by about $100,000, citing fewer construction projects bringing workers into the city.

Adam Ladwig

Adam Ladwig joined WDAZ as the Devils Lake bureau reporter in January, 2012. Prior to that he reported for KDUH-TV in Scottsbluff, Nebraska. Adam has won multiple awards during his time at WDAZ, including an Eric Sevareid award and a Regional Emmy Award as part of team coverage during the search for Anthony Kuznia.  A Colorado native, Adam graduated from the University of Colorado with a degree in Journalism. He misses the Rocky Mountains, but the kind people of North Dakota more than make up for that. He is thrilled to be in the Lake Region, telling stories that matter. In his spare time, Adam is usually futilely attempting to get in shape, or cheering for his beloved Denver Broncos.