Larry Gauper, Fargo, Published June 07 2012
Measure tempting, but …Even though there are many reasons to vote “no” on Measure 2 to eliminate property taxes in North Dakota, I have reasons tempting me to vote “yes.” These factors are easily summarized under the heading “irresponsible and arrogant actions of the Fargo School Board.” Apparently the only way to stop the back-door funding by the school board of projects Fargo voters had turned down or would, if given the opportunity to vote, is by taking away their apparently more-than-abundant revenue source.
Fargo voters have consistently rejected taxpayer funding for “arts centers” and hockey arenas. Voters also passed, by more than an 80 percent majority, a “mill levy cap” on the Fargo School District. Despite this clear message, telling the board that taxpayers were losing confidence in the way the board manages the money it receives through the property tax, the board went ahead and found the money to build – in a floodplain – an unneeded $44 million high school. I don’t care what kind of nebulous “master plan” the board felt gave it the approval to spend that kind of money on a controversial third high school; responsible board members would have insisted on taking this specific decision to the voters. Not doing so is an example of pure “we’re smarter than the voters” arrogance.
On top of that, in 2008, along came an impassioned plea for a new home for the Trollwood Performing Arts School. The school board then decided to back a loosely stitched, complicated financing scheme for a “regional arts center” in Moorhead – another state, no less – without guaranteeing that Fargo taxpayers’ money would be paid back. Now the school district is faced with a financial debacle, and the Bluestem “founders” haven’t a clue as to what to do about it.
And then we have the Urban Plains (Scheels) hockey arena that voters refused to fund. Again, the Fargo School Board to the rescue with back-door funding through a convoluted and expensive “ice time agreement.”
Short of voting “yes” on Measure 2, my only recourse is to find those candidates who will take specific multimillion-dollar projects to the voters and work toward a more transparent school board. I appreciate The Forum’s voter guide in helping me make a decision, and the newspaper’s ongoing efforts to shed light on the work of an elected body that seems to prefer working in private with public money.