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Bruce W. Furness, Published March 08 2014

Letter: ‘Yes’ vote preserves flexibility to keep Fargo schools excellent

Based on a requirement of the 2009 North Dakota Legislature, the Fargo Board of Education has scheduled a special election to be held Tuesday. This is a critically important election for residents in the Fargo School District, and I strongly encourage everyone’s participation. The single issue is: Shall the Fargo School System have a general fund mill levy authority of up to 150 mills effective Dec. 31, 2015? This is 20.46 mills less than the current authority, a 12 percent reduction, and would remain in effect for 10 years.

A “no” vote will harm the school district for years to come. This negative result would require the Fargo School District to freeze tax revenues at the 2015 level until property valuations increase to a level such that using the new state cap of 70 mills, tax revenues would equal this frozen amount. Clearly, this “freezing” would have a devastating impact on Fargo schools for many years. Property valuations in the Fargo School District would have to double to allow these revenue sources to become unfrozen. It would take nearly 30 years to rectify this situation

With tax revenues frozen but annual costs increasing, huge problems would arise. In fact, annual costs for salaries, advanced placements courses, co-curricular activities, building maintenance, utilities and many other school functions would be disastrously affected.

A better option is to vote “yes.” A “yes” vote means that recent reductions in the mill levy by our school board, along with legislative-granted property tax cuts, will allow the Fargo School District to continue the current mill levy of 139 mills. A “yes” vote means continued excellence of programming effectively delivered in our schools. A “yes” vote means a mill levy cap of 150 mills, which will provide an 11-mill buffer to accommodate unexpected and emergency situations. A “yes” vote means our schools, and the superb educational system existing today, will continue to be managed by our local school board.

For all these reasons, I urge your positive consideration of this very important decision. Vote “yes” Tuesday.

Furness is a former mayor of Fargo.