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Published March 01, 2013, 09:03 AM

Oil boom bites into Williston's credit rating

WILLISTON, N.D. (AP) — Leaders in the North Dakota oil patch hub of Williston say they are disappointed by a reduction in the city's credit rating but also committed to managing debt without putting the burden of the oil boom on local taxpayers.

WILLISTON, N.D. (AP) — Leaders in the North Dakota oil patch hub of Williston say they are disappointed by a reduction in the city's credit rating but also committed to managing debt without putting the burden of the oil boom on local taxpayers.

The rating reduction By Standard & Poor's Ratings Services reflects such things as general fund deficits that could deplete cash reserves and the city's financial challenges related to rapid growth, according to agency credit analyst Kathryn Clayton.

It could make it more expensive for Williston to borrow money for projects such as expansions of the sewage treatment plant and airport, The Forum reported.

Mayor Ward Koeser said city leaders are conservative about raising taxes.

"We don't believe our taxpayers should bear the burden of this (oil boom) impact," he said.

North Dakota has gone from being the nation's ninth-biggest oil producer in 2006 to the second-biggest, behind only Texas. Williston is in the heart of the western oil patch and has seen rapid growth. The 2010 Census put Williston's population at just under 15,000 people, but officials believe more than double that number of people live there now. A study late last year by North Dakota State University concluded Williston's population could grow to 44,000 in the next five years.

Williston had about $46 million in debt at the start of the year and has identified about $625 million in infrastructure needs, though not all projects need to be done immediately, City Auditor John Kautzman said.

City leaders are hoping the Legislature will direct more state money to cities in the oil patch.

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