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West Fargo Public Schools sets preliminary budget, hopes to spend savings on more staff

The district will be able to lower its mill levy.

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A sign out front of the Leidal Education center touts more than 150 staff have been hired to prepare for the 2022-23 school year in the West Fargo School District.
Wendy Reuer/Pioneer
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WEST FARGO — The good news from West Fargo Public Schools officials is that the district's financial health has never been better. The bad news is that a contributing factor to the current bank balance is the staffing shortage. While the district has been short-staffed in many areas, that is technically a cost savings.

Business Manager Levi Bachmeier hopes the budget will not look like that for long as the district continues to hire additional staff for its current and future schools. At the Monday, Aug. 8, school board meeting, the board unanimously approved its 2022-23 budget and set a final budget hearing to be held Monday, Sept. 12.

"We stayed close to budget in terms of authorizations," Bachmeier said of 2021-22 spending. "We are in a very, very strong cash position headed into fiscal year 2023."

The preliminary budget will reduce the general mill levy from 143.16 mills 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.

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.

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While the school district plans to reduce its mill levy next year, it hopes to remain competitive in the hiring market.

"I don't know of another district in the state that invests 75% to 80% in its people," Bachmeier said.

West Fargo Public Schools expects to grow by about 506 students to a total of about 12,760 students next year. However, the district's taxable valuations saw large increases this year.

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.

School Board Member Jim Jonas has said he plans to "harp" on the state legislature to improve that funding timing when he begins his first year as a District 13 Representative in the North Dakota State House of Representatives.

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.

READ MORE FROM WEST FARGO EDITOR WENDY REUER
Some residents argue expansion would create increase in drugs and human trafficking

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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