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Fargo weighs big changes to financial planning – InForum

FARGO — The city of Fargo is shaking up how it handles its finances.

After concerns were raised that the city’s long-term financial planning efforts aren’t up to snuff, city officials began some of the first steps toward a long-term approach during a meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 20.

“To do different, we’ve got to be different,” City Administrator Michael Redlinger said, adding that his team has spent a lot of time thinking about Fargo’s financial future and how they plan for success in the long term.

Going forward, they will draft a long-term financial plan to ensure that the direction is clear, Redlinger told members of the City Commission.

This change will provide a “roadmap to the future,” he said.

Staff also pitched a change to the city’s employee compensation philosophy in an effort to retain and recruit employees in a competitive market.

While most elected officials responded favorably to the idea, one commissioner was highly concerned about the change in direction.

Changing the meeting setup

For the last 25 years, the city has held a monthly meeting of the Finance Committee. This committee gives city staff direction on financial operations, according to the

city’s website.

Mayor Tim Mahoney, Commissioner Dave Piepkorn and five top city officials attend the meeting.

Redlinger suggested the city reevaluate this meeting format and instead hold quarterly financial meetings for the full city commission, during which staff could provide a holistic financial update.

In addition, he suggested the city begin holding private, bi-weekly staff meetings to discuss day-to-day financial decisions. This would be called the Finance, Administration and Human Resources Committee.

The proposed changes come after

The Forum reported that these Finance Committee meetings — made public in January of 2023 — should have been open to the public since at least 1997.

Commissioner John Strand pointed out that this change could prevent further clashes with the state’s open meeting laws because no members of the accountable public board would attend these private staff meetings.

Members of the public won’t be able to attend those staff meetings, either.

The city is facing ongoing challenges with recruitment and retention of staff, Director of Human Resources Jill Minette said.

To address this, she proposed a two-pronged plan of creating a compensation philosophy and approving a compensation strategy.

The compensation philosophy is a formal statement that guides decision-making, and the compensation strategy is a formal plan that describes the approach to compensation and benefits, Minette said.

“Our goal is really to create a well-defined, consistent plan for all comp (compensation) decisions” to “streamline” the process, she said.

Currently, many decisions about staff compensation have to go through the City Commission, Minette said, slowing down the hiring and promotion process. These delays exacerbate the city’s struggles with recruitment and retention of staff, she added.

To me this is unacceptable. … What you’re proposing is city employees determining compensation for city employees.

Fargo Commissioner Dave Piepkorn

Giving staff the authority to approve compensation decisions themselves would help them act more quickly and efficiently, Minette said. She asked the City Commission to delegate more financial decisions to city staff.

She proposed that staff could make compensation decisions during the bi-weekly Finance, Administration and Human Resources Committee meetings, adding that these decisions would be reported back to the full City Commission during the quarterly updates.

In order to back up these plans, the city will need to invest financial resources, Minette said.

She estimates that the annual cost of a 1% increase to the city’s salary structure will ring up around $1.7 million.

The response from commissioners was split.

Piepkorn said the idea doesn’t hold water.

“To me, this is unacceptable,” Piepkorn said. “What you’re proposing is city employees determining compensation for city employees.”

It is…

Read More: Fargo weighs big changes to financial planning – InForum

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