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Published March 05 2010

Officials hold last forum on $40M vote

With three weeks to go before voters return to the polls, West Fargo school officials are making their last pitch for the March 23 referendum.

About 60 residents turned out Thursday for the final of three public meetings on the school district’s $40 million referendum.

And while there was some opposition to the plans, school officials and supporters say they hope it’s a small, vocal few.

“I think there’s a faction that still doesn’t trust the school board,” parent Tom McDougall said. “(But) if we don’t do something, there is no place to put them (students). We need to do something. Nothing is not an option.”

The district projects that by 2014 they’ll have up to 1,800 more students and a need for an additional 78 classrooms.

“It’s just crazy,” parent Jeff Jaszkowiak said. “We know something needs to happen fast. We need more space.”

If voters pass the referendum, it will fund a new, second high school and a new elementary school.

For an owner of a $100,000 home, they’d pay $77 more in property taxes to the school district each year while an owner of a $200,000 home would pay $154 more in taxes.

“For $200 a year, it’s well worth it,” parent Jon Walsvik said. “It’s got to pass.”

This month’s vote is a pared-down plan from last June’s $65 million referendum, which garnered

51 percent approval, falling short of the 60 percent approval needed to build new schools.

This year, residents like Frank Lenzmeier predict the vote will pass, “but it’s going to be close,” he said.

That’s why, in the next three weeks, officials will continue to get the word out about the vote.

Board Vice President Karen Nitzkorski said officials aren’t planning to send out any publications to voters, but residents behind a “Vote Yes” committee are planning to send out information soon.

The committee has also launched a Web site and Facebook and Twitter pages.

Now, as the vote nears, Nitzkorski said school board members are confident in their plan and aren’t concerned spring flooding will influence voter turnout.

“My gut feeling is it will pass,” she said. “People are understanding how crowded we are. We believe we know what we’re doing. And we think we’re getting that message out there.”


Readers can reach Forum reporter Kelly Smith at (701) 241-5515