The West Fargo School District is asking the city of Horace to reconsider its proposed special assessments that it says would cause the school district to subsidize private development if not reduced.
The city of Horace published proposed special assessments for four projects that would cost the school district nearly $4.78 million in special assessments.
The projects include:
- 150% Lakeview Drive and 79th Avenue, assessment of 150% or $3.2 million
- 150% of the 76th Avenue Roundabout or about $70,000,
- 150% for 63rd Street or $1.06 million
- 100% of the Club Creek First Addition or $373,500.
After planning the new Heritage Middle School and Horace High School off 76th Avenue, the West Fargo School District was aware it would be footing the bill for special assessments in the area, but Business Manager Levi Bachmeier said Monday, Sept. 14, that 150% on some of the projects is unfair.
Bachmeier said the city has reduced the numbers since assessments were first published in The Forum and West Fargo Pioneer legal sections.
"The district was going to be assessed over $5.734 million dollars in special assessments," Bachmeier said. "So we are seeing some progress, but we don't yet feel comfortable with where we are at with the city."
Since the school district is also a public entity, it would pay for the special assessments with taxpayer dollars from residents of West Fargo, Horace, Reiles Acres and parts of Fargo.
Bachmeier said the district felt its assessments for the 76th Avenue roundabout was fair and reflected in the value the district receives from having it near the two school sites.
"We felt it was fair because of the relative amount we were paying was justifiable with the benefits we were receiving," Bachmeier said.
He suggested the district not protest that project.
Bachmeier said the 63rd Street project was the most concerning. He said a change from 150% to 100% of special assessments would create about $350,000 in savings.
"Basically how the boundary is written on 63rd Street, it is us and a field that will someday be developed," Bachmeier said. "All district residents would essentially be paying for that subsidization, particularly longtime residents of Horace."
"The taxpayers cannot subsidize new developments," Board President Patti Stedman said.
Bachmeier said the district isn't in dispute with the 100% of the Club Creek Addition, but it does question the city's so-called benefit.
"Almost $300,000 dollars of that is administrative fees," Bachmeier said.
Superintendent Beth Slette said she believes the city of Horace is willing to continue conversations with the school district, however school officials said they reached out to the city earlier this year to discuss the assessments but had a hard time getting city officials to respond.
"We are certainly willing to have a conversation about how to best structure special assessments in Horace," Bachmeier said.
The Horace Special Assessments Committee will meet at 4 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 17, at Horace City Hall. School District officials will protest the assessments at the public meeting.
The district would have another opportunity to protest the assessments to the Horace City Commission at a later time.
"We want to pay what is fair and we need to have a metric to determine what is fair," Slette said.