Special Election Preparation

By Fargo Public Schools Business Manager Broc Lietz

Preparations are underway currently for a special election which will be held on March 11, 2014.  This election will be for the sole purpose of determining the Fargo Public Schools (FPS) general fund mill levy authority for the 10-year period of time following the 2014-15 fiscal year.

Although the pending vote is about an “excess mill levy,” there is confusion as to what that means.  FPS is not seeking voter approval to increase taxes; rather, the approval is for authority to continue to tax at a level consistent with our current authority, which is in “excess” of the state mill levy cap.

In 2002, the taxpayers of Fargo Public School District #1 voted to remove the unlimited general fund levy authority and capped the district at 295.46 mills.  Since that time, the North Dakota State Legislature has reduced the state mill levy cap for school districts, providing property tax relief by requiring local districts to reduce their general fund mill levy.  FPS has continued to reduce its general fund levy since the 2002 vote, depicted in the graph below:

2001-02 – Voter approved FPS cap of 295.46
2009-10 – State imposed 75 mill reduction – 191.31
2013-14 – State imposed 50 mill reduction – 139

Prior to the 2009 Legislative action requiring a 75 mill reduction, FPS had reduced its general fund levy 29.15 mills.  During the 2013 Legislative session, the state once again provided property tax relief by calling for a 50 mill reduction by local school districts.  FPS reduced our general fund levy for 2013-14 by 52.18 mills.

Although FPS remains an excess mill levy district, we have continued to reduce the number of excess mills as the state cap has reduced, illustrated below:

Year                State Cap       FPS Levy       Difference
01-02               185 mills          295.46 mills     139.61 mills
09-10               110 mills          191.31 mills       81.31 mills
13-14                 70 mills          139.00 mills       69.00 mills