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New schools mean deficit for school board

In reviewing the budget at Monday's board meeting for West Fargo Public Schools, the board recognized that they have been "deficit spending" and are asking for help, via a resolution, from the North Dakota School Association.

"When we went through the process of negotiating with our teachers and other staff last spring, we had talked about the impact on our budget for the long term," business manager Mark Lemer said, "and we knew that we were creating a situation, with the opening of all of our new schools and the staffing increases, that we were going to be in a deficit."

At the moment, the board's revenues are $1,023,990 less than their expenses.

"We are still okay in terms of our target," Lemer said, "even though we are deficit spending."

Post-registration statistics indicate enrollment has increased this year by 522 students, roughly 100 more than expected. However, a simple increase in enrollment does not warrant such spending.

"What's causing us to deficit-spend, more than anything else, is that we're opening new buildings," Lemer said. "If we have new students that we can accommodate in our existing buildings, then we don't have the additional operational budget of heat, lights, custodians, etc."

To correct these issues, the board is submitting a resolution to the state to aid the West Fargo School District, as well as other rapidly growing districts in North Dakota.

The state currently funds schools based on enrollment numbers from the previous year. Since most districts in the state have seen a decline in enrollment, this method actually favors much of the state.

"What we are asking of the state is consideration for districts like ours that have a significant enrollment growth each year when we are funded one year behind," Lemer said. "This resolution is requesting the North Dakota School Association to adopt a position that supports our needs and the needs of western schools that are experiencing increases year after year."

In other actions, the board approved:

* A co-op agreement with Northern Cass High School for been approved by the Northern Cass board. A co-op agreement is already in place with Park Christian.

* To adopt a resolution to establish the mill levy for the upcoming school year.

Also, the board discussed the water supply to be used for the underground sprinkling system at Sheyenne Liberty Center. With the ongoing drought-like conditions, there is debate as to whether the pond near it is adequate. Other alternatives discussed included having their own well, pulling from the nearby Sheyenne River, and using city services to support this system.