Helmut Schmidt, Published August 13 2013
West Fargo moves forward on financing another elementary schoolWEST FARGO – The West Fargo School Board began the process of financing another elementary school Monday.
The board unanimously approved resolutions to use part of the district’s building fund levy to issue bonds to pay for the school; apply for a state school construction loan; and allow the district to reimburse itself for costs tied to construction (such as initial architectural work) taken on before bonds are issued.
Business Manager Mark Lemer said there is a 60-day waiting period to allow protests on the decision to use the building fund.
Five percent of the assessed value of the school district needs to be represented in protests to delay the process, Lemer said. The district’s total assessed value last year was nearly $2 billion.
In the meantime, the district has forwarded the school construction loan application to the Department of Public Instruction.
The loan application pegs the cost of building the school at $11.7 million.
The district has 22 acres of land suitable for an elementary school in Fargo’s city limits between the Deer Creek subdivision and 52nd Avenue South.
If construction starts next May, the school would likely be ready for fall 2015.
The board also voted 7-0 to approve the preliminary budget for 2013-14.
General fund revenues for 2013-14 are expected to be $89,188,340, with revenues from all funds totaling $122,309,080.
General fund expenditures are expected to be $87,294,770.
The $1,893,570 remainder between revenues and expenditures, plus $367,311.48 from a federal jobs grant, brings the projected fund balance to $15.68 million, or nearly 18 percent of the general fund budget.
The fund balance can be used to cover revenue shortfalls or other district needs as determined by the school board.
Overall expenditures are expected to hit $154,860,400, but that includes costs of large capital projects, such as some construction of Liberty Middle School and Phases I and II of Sheyenne High School, which are paid with proceeds from bonding.
The district saw an 8 percent increase in property tax valuation from $187,383,177 in 2012 to $202,373,755 in 2013, Lemer said. About 2.1 percent of the increase is tied to existing property, and 5.9 percent is tied to new construction.
The total mill levy will be reduced to 142.2 mills. However, state law says that because property values have gone up 2.1 percent, the mill levy should be 139.28 mills.
To maintain the levy at 142.2 mills, the district will have to conduct a public hearing and mail notices to taxpayers who saw an increase in the assessed value of their properties of 10 percent or more.
In other business, the board approved adding another elementary school assistant principal position at a projected cost of $90,100. That position will be shared between two schools, but those schools won’t be determined until the district has firmer figures on enrollment at each building this fall.
The district has one assistant elementary school principal shared between two buildings. Administrators told the school board they’d like to keep that position.
The board also approved $62,306 in pay hikes for the coming year due to increases in days worked or duties of employees, including the technology director, Community High School principal, three middle school assistant principals and other positions tied to special education, English Language Learners, reading, technology and other programs.
The elementary assistant principal spot and the other salary adjustments were not budgeted, Lemer said. He told the board that he’s confident those funds can be found by changing priorities in the current budget.
Readers can reach Forum reporter
Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583