Other views: 'Yes' vote puts voters in charge of school tax
The headline in the May 29 Forum: "Budget increases $3.8 million" helps explain why limiting the Fargo School Districts taxing power will still allow funding increases without raising the mill levy.
The headline in the May 29 Forum: "Budget increases $3.8 million" helps explain why limiting the Fargo School Districts taxing power will still allow funding increases without raising the mill levy. The article goes on to say, "The Fargo School Board's $79.8 million preliminary budget for 2002-2003 is more than $3.8 million higher than last year's budget, but features no increase in the district's mill levy." This demonstrates that limiting the levy to the present level continues to increase funding to the Fargo School District from district taxpayers without having to raise the mill levy. The district also forecasts declining enrollment for the next 10 years. Here are a few items to consider:
E The average general fund mill levy for school districts in North Dakota is just over 188 mills. Fargo's is 296.46, the highest in the state.
E There are only four out of 222 districts that have the unlimited taxing authority. Grand Forks levy is 201.06, Bismarck is 234.53, and Williston is 237.81.
E How does Fargo compare to the nine other districts that have more than 2,500 students? According to information from the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction, Fargo has 11,780 students and the total revenue is $79,507,052. Bismarck is the next largest district with 11,054 students and their total revenue is $61,494,277. We spend over $18 million more. Grand Forks, Minot, West Fargo, Mandan, Jamestown, Dickinson and Williston all have lower per-student costs and all but West Fargo have lower student/teacher ratios. Comparing ourselves to districts that may have as few as 16 students does not help make fair comparisons.
E When the supporters for unlimited taxing authority state: "Total taxes paid by Fargo residents are lower than most larger North Dakota cities." Notice they are speaking of the total property tax, not the school district tax. Property tax funds other entities besides the schools: the city, county, parks department, along with the school. Who knows what their county mills are or their cities? Lumping it together does not help compare school district to school district.
E Are our teachers the highest paid in the state? No, According to the Department of Public Instruction district resource chart, Grand Forks teachers, on average, make $300 more per year even though their general fund mill levy is 201.06, this is 94.40 less mills than ours.
A "yes" vote would mean you want to remove the unlimited taxing authority and would require the voters approval only for increases in the general fund levy. Voters can approve projects that they determine are needed, just as Hillsboro and West Fargo have recently passed school tax increase measures for new projects with over 80 percent approval for each.
Please vote Tuesday, June 11.
Williams is co-leader of an effort to end the Fargo School District's unlimited mill levy. He also is a candidate for the Fargo City Commission. He can be reached at email@example.com