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West Fargo School Board discusses budget, insurance, land purchase

The West Fargo School Board covered a lot of ground at Monday's meeting.

With recommendations for action that spanned the first nine letters of the alphabet - and then some - it took nearly three hours to fully discuss the agenda.

The most pressing points were the approval of an $89,235,700 budget and 170.64 mills levied for the upcoming 2010-11 school year.

Business Manager Mark Lemer presented a 304-page document listing projected revenue and expenses for the year. According to his calculations, property owners should not see a tax increase for K-12 education this year.

Lemer originally presented numbers at the July 27 meeting of the board that projected growth of more than $110,000. Because of adjustments since then, including deductions of more than $700,000 for teacher and administrative staff salaries and nearly $15,000 from classified salaries, the revised budget projects growth of nearly $875,000.

That number, however, is anything but static.

Lemer said that the deductions from salaries was not from pay cuts, but removing budgeted money from projected staff hiring during the school year.

"Significant adjustments could be made," he said. There is "enough in the budget ... for existing staff," but the budget will need to be amended with staff requests.

Other changes since July 27 included the addition of $45,200 to the General Fund from Title II D ARRA, and the loss of $9,500 with the removal of a United Way Indian Education Grant.

The nearly $1 million technology equipment budget also saw a decrease of more than $30,000 because white board purchases were covered under Title II.

Not included in the 2010-11 budget besides yet-to-be-approved teacher salaries, were school improvement grants, supplies, and a proposed land purchase.

As with teacher salaries, Lemer said the budget would need to be amended when changes occurred during the school year.

Administrators were under the gun to get the budget together and approved by Monday's deadline. Officials applauded Lemer and his staff for their work.

"There was a lot of midnight oil burned," Superintendent Dr. David Flowers said.

Also Monday

• The board authorized administrators to negotiate the purchase of a 10-12-acre piece of property located west of Veterans Boulevard and north of 32nd Avenue South. Though they originally discussed partnering with the Park Board in an effort to possibly share space for playground equipment and parking, Lemer said that the 10-12 acres would be sufficient if the Park decided not to join forces.

• After a somewhat heated exchange, the board decided to table recommended action by the insurance committee until the next meeting. Because of proposed insurance changes from health reform, the insurance committee suggested early compliance with Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. PPACA will require all employer group health plans to allow young adults to remain on their parents' health insurance plans until age 26, as long as they do not have employer group health insurance available elsewhere. Compliance would mean a funding level increase of 8.5 percent, as opposed to 6.7 percent otherwise. Board members Ben Koppelman and David Olson were against the measure because the school district's renewal date comes before the compliance date. Delaying the tax increase until then would be an "opportunity to conform to all the rules and regs and not spend $100,000 of taxpayer money," Koppelman said.