Todd Fuchs, Published June 07 2009
Vote ‘yes’ for schools in West FargoI would like to explain why I am voting “yes” Tuesday for the West Fargo School District bond election. Our daughter graduated from West Fargo High in 2000, and other than being a resident/taxpayer in the district, I really don’t have a dog in this fight.
I became involved over the winter with the school advisory board. I wanted to know from a taxpayer’s perspective where my hard-earned tax dollars were going to be spent. I was concerned that the school district was on track to build a few Taj Mahal schools. I found out I was completely uninformed about the direction the West Fargo School District is headed.
This is some of what I learned. I hope it helps you understand the vote Tuesday.
- Numbers: The first thing that shocked me was the amazing growth in the number of children in the district. The numbers are almost staggering. In 2000 the total number of children in the district was 4,972. In the year that just ended, the total is 6,698, and in five years – 2014 – just after the proposed schools open, the number is projected to be a staggering 8,505. That is nearly double the number in 2000.
- The flood: Another flood is coming to the West Fargo School District. This time it’s a Great Flood, a “flood” of children attending our great school district. And, as with a flooded river, we prepare. We now have to prepare for this new “flood.” It will be here.
- Planning: The next thing that impressed me and got me involved was the great planning by the district. It is a plan that goes back more than 10 years. They prudently bought the property for these schools. We are reusing the same plans for the new elementary school as the latest new school, Aurora. So if you are wondering what the new school will look like, drive by Aurora. A similar plan is being used for the new high school. The district is using the plans from the Sheyenne 9th Grade Academy. The plan is to move north a couple of hundred yards and building the same building with some tweaking, but basically the same architectural plans.
This wise use of already-paid-for plans, coupled with this slowdown of construction should make for some competitive bids and a chance to save a lot in construction costs.
- Paying for all of this: The governor and the state Legislature worked hard this past session to bring to fruition the dream of relieving the property tax payer of a large share of his/her responsibility to finance public education. The state will be paying an additional 75 mills to fund public K-12 education. This will reduce our property taxes next year and years into the future.
What the district is asking by our vote is: Rather than a $506 reduction, how about a $283 reduction on your $150,000 house and the balance of $223 to be used to fund the projects? It would seem to me now is the time to ask the question, rather than wait a year and then ask you for a flat-out increase of $223 on top of your newly reduced property tax.
The entire 65 mills in bonds will not be purchased all at once, just enough to fund the priority projects first; then if the growth continues as planned, the remainder will be used to fund some expansion projects, without having to have another one of these labor intensive elections.
- Two high schools: On the hotly debated topic of two high schools, I have a short answer. This undertaking is about the growth of our district; we simply cannot pretend that 2,400 students in a single high school is in the best interest of the students. They become lost in the system as a number. Students are not numbers. They are our sons and daughters. These young people should be able to have the same opportunities for an education and extracurricular activities as my daughter did back in 2000.
She may not have been the next high school soccer star, but she did have the opportunity to play. This is not so when 70 girls show up to try out in a school of class sizes of 600 to 700. Most kids will probably not even attempt to try out, as they just become lost in the numbers. Two high schools will double the number of opportunities, and for those of you who enjoy West Fargo athletics, twice as many home games, too.
We should vote “yes” and see that we are prepared to give our future leaders the best education and the most opportunities that the wise use of tax dollars can provide.
Go to the polls Tuesday and exercise your vote.