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No residents show up for public hearing on West Fargo Schools budget

The general mill levy will be reduced, but taxpayers may still see increase with property valuations going up.

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WEST FARGO — The West Fargo School Board will be lowering its general mill levy by about 7 mills, but not all taxpayers may see a decrease in their property tax bill because
property valuations have been going up across the metro area.

The district will be lowering its general mill levy from 143.16 to 136.17 mills. This means that on a $100,000 home, the tax savings would be about $31.46. For a $250,000 home, taxpayers would see a savings of $78.64.

"Down 7 (mills) is substantial," Business Manager Levi Bachmeier said.

The board held a public hearing for its 2022-2023 budget during its regular meeting, Monday, Sept. 12. However, no members of the public chose to speak to the West Fargo School Board regarding the budget or its use of ESSER Funds. ESSER Funds are federal dollars the district received as part of COVID-19 relief.

While the funds cannot be used for regular budget items, the public was offered a chance to speak to how the district uses ESSER funds, Bachmeier said.

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Prior to the budget hearing, the board approved using more than $1 million to offer all staff one-time retention bonuses of between $250 and $500.

Under state law, the district can only use funds for staffing from the miscellaneous levy, special reserve levy or the general fund. Those three levies are maxed out by state standards, and the district cannot raise them to increase salaries or teacher retention efforts.

Bachmeier has attributed the decrease in mills to the increased property valuations that cities in the district have seen in the past year and to the mills needed to pay the district's debt service decreasing this year as the district continues to pay off its debt.

If a home has an increased valuation, its overall tax bill that includes city, county, parks and school district taxes could be larger than last year.

The school district's levies are based on the taxable valuation of the nearly dozen taxing entities that make up the school district, which includes all of the city of West Fargo, parts of Fargo, and all of Harwood, Horace and Reiles Acres along with Barnes, Berlin, Harwood, Mapleton, Raymond, Reed and Stanley townships. The total valuation that makes up the district's mills will rise about 12%, or about $55 million.

The district is expecting about $10,237 per student in state aid. It will receive about 70% of its state aid quickly this year, as the state has moved to an "on-time" funding mechanism.

The board only held a public hearing on the budget Monday. It must still approve a final 2022-2023 budget by Oct. 10.

READ MORE FROM WEST FARGO EDITOR WENDY REUER
WEST FARGO — After seeing a dramatic increase in premium costs year after year, West Fargo Public Schools plans to change its health insurance plans in order to spend less money on the benefit and invest more into staff salaries.

Readers can reach West Fargo editor Wendy Reuer at wreuer@forumcomm.com or 701-241-5530 . Follow her on Twitter @ForumWendy .

As the West Fargo editor, Wendy Reuer covers all things West Fargo for The Forum and oversees the production of the weekly Pioneer.
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