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Erik Burgess, Published June 12 2012

Fargo School Board looks at new budget

FARGO – Two building projects totaling $3.8 million were proposed to the Fargo School Board in a preliminary budget hearing Tuesday.

The two proposed projects are a $2.3 million gym addition at Centennial Elementary School and a

$1.5 million cardio addition at Discovery Middle School.

If approved, the projects would be paid from the district’s general fund balance, a source of money which holds any extra general fund dollars at the end of every fiscal year.

Assistant Superintendent for Business Services Broc Lietz said there will be approximately $32 million in this fund balance by the end of this fiscal year on June 30.

If approved, these two projects, along with nearly $1.9 million to pay bonds Clay County issued for the Bluestem Center for the Arts, will take approximately $5.6 million from the general fund balance.

The two proposed capital projects were recommended to the board by senior district administrators following a study of gym, cardio and storage space in Fargo schools, Lietz said.

“Is there a need? We can all say we need something. It’s different than if you do the analysis to determine ‘Are they short?’ And that information (from the study) does, in fact, share that,” Lietz told the board.

Lietz emphasized that among all the middle schools, Discovery showed the greatest need for a new gym facility. He also said the Fargo Park District is interested in partially funding and using the new space at Centennial.

As this was a preliminary budget hearing, the board took no action.

Included in the preliminary budget is also $235,000 for operating costs for the Bluestem Center for the Arts. Board President Jim Johnson also said the ad hoc committee which formed between the board and Bluestem have “found common ground,” and he is waiting for Bluestem’s board to meet before they move forward.

Bluestem fundraisers were unable to make a $285,000 bond payment in December, forcing the school district to make the payment because it was a guarantor for the bonds. Since then, the district has paid the costs to run the facility and will make the June bond payment.

The school board recently voted to pay off the bonded debt to trim interest costs. That also gives it the option to take over the Bluestem group’s lease rights, meaning the district would have full legal rights for operating and scheduling the facility.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Erik Burgess at (701) 241-5518