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Mark Herschlip, Published June 04 2010

Fargo School Board members show they are not fit to serve

From 2008 to 2010, the Fargo School District budget has increased by nearly 10 percent or $10 million, from approximately $102 million to more than $111 million. The current Fargo School Board has never seen a budget increase it didn’t like, including a salary raise from $9,000 to $12,000 per year for each board member.

Two years ago, North Dakota came to the rescue of beleaguered property tax payers and increased state school funding, which did give a modest break to Fargo taxpayers. But this did not stop long-term Fargo School Board members from adding $10 million in new spending.

In other words, the incumbent board members have not exhibited a good-faith effort in spending reduction. I don’t know about you, but in tough economic times, most of us are probably doing something to tighten the spending belt.

Recently, thanks to reporting in The Forum, we also learned that approximately $1 million in overrides is being spent by the district on a software project. On this particular budgetary item and others, including numerous building projects, current board members are not exhibiting sound spending or oversight practices.

To cite just one troubling fact, interest alone on Davies High School averages about $2 million a year over the next 16 years. And this debt was incurred without a vote of taxpayers.

Among the foremost issues not being adequately addressed by members seeking re-election: 1) the aforementioned unwillingness to allow citizen voting on new school construction; 2) the spending of more than $3 million-plus in slush fund monies on Trollwood; 3) the failure of almost all of the district’s schools to meet federal academic standards; 4) student and parent dissatisfaction with the district’s response to incidences of bullying; 5) persistent funding increases at a time of stagnant enrollment.

While anti-incumbent fever and action isn’t always a desirable or effective strategy, this election year it is necessary. Fargo residents deserve full participation in their local government. They deserve to vote on building projects, and their elected board members who insist on denying them this and other rights should be removed at the ballot box.