Third time’s the charm as West Fargo overwhelmingly approves $82.5 million school bond issueWEST FARGO – School district voters overwhelmingly approved an $82.5 million bond issue Tuesday.
By: Helmut Schmidt, INFORUM
WEST FARGO – School district voters resoundingly approved an $82.5 million bond issue Tuesday.
Seventy percent of those voting backed the issue, with 5,194 casting “yes” ballots out of 7,420 votes in final but unofficial results.
Onlookers stood, wildly cheering and applauding in the boardroom of the district’s main office, as Business Manager Mark Lemer posted the voting results from the Veterans Memorial Arena, the biggest and last voting site to report.
“The third time is the charm,” School Board President Karen Nitzkorski said. “Honestly, to be able to provide our stu-dents with the space that they need to really thrive and be 21stcentury learners is huge.”
“We’re very thrilled for the community of West Fargo and the students of West Fargo,” Superintendent David Flowers said.
“I think it’s a good plan that came through a good process, and our board was tremendously courageous and supportive, I think, throughout. This was a big number that we were asking for, but it’s the right plan.”
During the last of two failed bond votes, Dave Olson was a spokesperson for the “no” faction. Now, on the school board, he has been a champion for the plan.
“Seventy percent, what a great testament to our community,” Olson said. “I’m really happy for students, their families, our teachers, our community.”
The bonds will build or expand several schools for the fast-growing district. It now has 7,200 students, and is projected to have more than 9,000 in the 2015-16 school year.
The vote needed a 60 percent supermajority to pass, and all put one site easily provided that margin, in final but unofficial results.
• Aurora Elementary, 622 “yes” votes out of 700 cast, 89 percent approval.
• Sheyenne Ninth Grade Center, 972 “yes” votes out of 1,219 cast, 80 percent approval.
• Horace Elementary, 388 “yes” votes out of 599 cast, 65 percent approval
• Westside Elementary, 806 “yes” votes out of 1,219 cast, 66 percent approval.
• Veterans Memorial Arena, 2,046 “yes” votes out of 3,081 cast, 66 percent approval.
• Harwood Elementary, 184 “yes” votes out of 370 cast, 50 percent approval.
• Absentee ballots, 176 “yes” votes of 237 cast, 74 percent approval.
The City Commission and the West Fargo Education Association both supported the issue, as did a citizens’ group called VOICE (Volunteers Organized in the Interest of Children’s Education).
“I’m delighted. I think it was the culmination of a community effort. I think it’s a very historic day for the community of West Fargo,” WFEA President Joan Connor said.
“I’m just so glad everyone came out. We had a record turnout. And we finally got it done. It’s about time,” said Heather Sand, a board member and spokeswoman for VOICE.
Not everyone was happy with the result.
Barry Miller was a staunch opponent of the bonding request. Now, he said it’s time to shift focus to accountability for the use of the bonds. Miller said he wants to be sure a second elementary school is built with $11 million in bonds set aside for it.
“I will hold the board accountable so that it is spent on that and only that,” Miller said.
“Now we have to focus on making them accountable,” he said. “I will live with the results. But we’re not going to quietly go away.”
The bonds will be used
• for several projects:
A 550-student elementary school (cost $11 million), south of Interstate 94. It would be modeled after Aurora Elementary. Construction would begin immediately so it could be opened by the fall of 2012.
• A second 550-student elementary ($11 million) would be bonded and built when enrollment reaches a trigger point, dis-trict officials said.
• A 1,200-student middle school ($33 million). It would be built on the north end of the Sheyenne Ninth Grade Center site.
• Expansion of the 600-student Sheyenne Ninth Grade Center into a 1,500-student high school ($26.8 million).
• Creation of a ninthgrade wing at West Fargo High School ($400,000). The school district now levies 170.64 mills in proper-ty taxes. The property tax on a $100,000 home is $767.88, Lemer said. The bond issue would add 27.5 mills to the property tax levy, Lemer said. That would add $123.75 per year to the tax bill on a $100,000 home for 20 years, he said. “I’m elated. And relieved. That’s what we needed, and the voters knew that,” said board member Angela Korsmo.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583