Frequently Asked Questions
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Review the questions and answers below to learn more about the vote on March 7. If you don't see the answer to your question below, please use the Comments/Questions page link on the left hand side of this page and send your question in to the Fargo Public Schools.
Why is FPS holding this election?
State law NDCC 57-15-14d requires Fargo Public Schools (FPS) to obtain approval from its taxpayers to continue any prior voter authorized general fund tax levies.
What is a general fund specified mill levy?
Fargo Public Schools is a school district with a General Fund specified mill levy. This means it has a General Fund mill levy above the state cap of 70 mills.
Did FPS have prior approval to maintain a specified mill levy?
Yes, in 2002 voters approved a specified mill levy which exceeded the state cap.
So why does the District have to go back to voters again?
In 2009, legislation was developed that requires any school district who has a specified mill levy higher than the state cap to go back to its citizens prior to December 31, 2015 to reauthorize the specified mill levy.
Has the District asked for approval since the 2009 legislation change?
Yes, in March of 2014 the district asked local property taxpayers to support a specified mill levy of 150 mills. The voters defeated the referendum; therefore, the Fargo Public Schools’ local tax revenue dollars were frozen as of December 31, 2015.
What does frozen mean?
The Fargo Public Schools’ revenue it receives through local taxpayers is currently frozen. This means moving forward the Fargo Public Schools will not have the same access to the true value of assessed properties, like the City of Fargo, Park District or County receives.
What impact has this had on the District’s budget?
With a frozen mill levy, FPS cannot have access to the true value of assessed properties. For fiscal year 2016-17, that amounted to unrealized revenue of approximately $4,500,000.
What happens to the unrealized revenue? Is this money (that we cannot access) sitting somewhere accumulating interest and waiting when FPS receives approval/permission? Or, does someone else get this money to spend?
There is not additional property tax collected on behalf of the school. What happens is that the mill levy actually reduces on the school portion of a property owner’s tax bill. The reduction ends up being equal to the actual dollars collected last year ($44 million). Last year the school district levied 139 General Fund mills. That equaled just over $44 million. With the freeze, what the County does when they certify our budget is they calculate how many mills it takes at the new valuation to equal to $44 million. For the 2016-17 school year, the mill levy is 127 for FPS. The County actually collects the same amount of money on behalf of the school from the overall tax base, but the number of mills are reduced for the taxpayer.
What is the current mill levy of the Fargo Public Schools?
Currently, FPS levies 127 mills for the purpose of obtaining local property tax dollars to assist in paying for the cost of educating its more than 11,000 students.
What is the history of the number of mills levied by the district over the past 16 years?
Over the past sixteen years, Fargo Public Schools has decreased the General Fund mill levy by a total of 170.35 mills. 125.0 mills were decreased due to required legislative action (75 mill decrease in fiscal year 2010 and 50 mill decrease in fiscal year 2014). 45.35 mills were decreased through demonstrated fiscal responsibility by Fargo Public Schools to relieve the tax burden on property owners.
What is the past history of the actual dollars collected by the school district through local property tax?
Since 2006, the district has received less actual dollars from local property tax due to the increased assistance through state foundation aid payments and a 125 mill tax relief program sponsored by the State. The following chart depicts the fact that since 2006 the district has received $18 million dollars less in local property tax.
What is Foundation Aid?
Foundation Aid is revenue from the state for K-12 education. North Dakota has had a foundation aid program since the 1950s; the current program was adopted by the state Legislature in 1973, with the passage of Senate Bill 2026. This bill was a result of compromises among legislators from rural, city, large, and small school districts. It was intended to provide more state funds to schools and create equity to satisfy the court mandates of the time. The state foundation aid program can be expressed as a formula that takes into account a school district’s average daily membership (ADM) and a weighted factor for economy of scale that results in weighted pupil units, the state’s appropriation for K-12 education or per pupil payments, and a school district’s wealth or equalization factor commonly called “the deduct.”
What is the local taxpayers share for covering the cost of educating FPS students?
Currently the State pays for 65% of the overall cost for educating students for Fargo Public Schools. Local tax dollars’ account for 30% and Federal programs and grant dollars’ account for the remaining 5%.
How was the FPS able to lower the mill rate over the past 16 years and still maintain quality programs for the students they serve?
The North Dakota Legislature has assisted local school districts by allocating more dollars from the state to the local school district. The 125 mill rate decrease (which was a savings for local property tax owners) was supplanted with new dollars from the State. In addition, increases in foundation aid payments to districts brought the state’s share in covering the cost of educating FPS students to 65% of the total cost. Through demonstrated fiscal responsibility, Fargo Public Schools also decreased by 45.35 mills were to relieve the tax burden on property owners.
What will I see on the ballot?
The ballot language will be the following:
The current Fargo Public School District’s general fund levy is 127.00 mills. The current statutory general fund limitation is seventy mills on the dollar of the taxable valuation of the school district.
Shall Fargo Public Schools District No. 1 have a specified general fund mill levy of 127.00 mills effective December 31, 2017?
For more on the ballot language, click here.
If I vote yes, will my taxes be raised?
Property taxes will not increase directly as a result of a yes vote in this election. Homeowners would only have an increase in property taxes as a result of a property valuation increase as set by the City of Fargo's Assessment Department or a levy increase by other taxing entities (i.e. City, Park District, or Cass County).
Who determines the value of my house for tax purposes?
The setting of taxable value of a home and other properties is determined by the City of Fargo's Assessment Department.
If I vote no, will my taxes go down?
The result of this vote is not the sole indicator of whether or not your property taxes will increase or decrease. The FPS portion of your property tax may decrease if your house was not reassessed. However, the overall value of your property is the key indicator of your tax bill and any increase in that value may impact the amount of taxes you pay. The School District does not assess home value – that is the function of the City of Fargo's Assessment Department.
How can I see what my property taxes are?
Cass County distributes information regarding property taxes annually. Also, they have a website where you can estimate your property taxes, which is available at this link.
What will happen if this does not pass?
FPS will be frozen at the actual property tax dollars collected in the 2015-16 fiscal year, which means the district no longer receives additional General Fund tax dollars as the city grows or property values change (like the City of Fargo, Park District and County does) until the value of 70 mills equals that dollar amount. The result will be millions of dollars in unrealized revenue.
If the vote fails, what impact will there be on students?
Fargo Public Schools is proactively planning for the future and has developed many plans for the operations of the district, such as the Strategic Plan, Long Range Financial Plan and Long Range Facility Plan. The outcome of the election will impact these plans and the budget for future school years.
The district will find it difficult to continue offering the current standard of effort that our city has supported for years. Difficult choices will have to be made about budget allocations, including programming and human resources. All services and programs the district currently offers its students and families would be reviewed and considered for reductions or cuts.
What does a yes vote mean?
If voters approve a specified mill levy on March 7, 2017, FPS will again receive property taxes based on the assessed value of individual property. This will allow FPS to continue its current standard of effort to provide quality education for all students in the district. Education is a cornerstone in the foundation of Fargo; FPS desires to meet the community’s expectation of a high quality education for its K-12 students.
Why is this being held as a special election?
A specified mill levy is a complex topic and the election outcome has a profound financial impact on the Fargo Public Schools. A special election for the purpose of approving the mill levy level for Fargo Public Schools will allow for voters to be informed on just one topic. The date of March 7 works well in the school calendar and the district’s budget creation cycle.
Where do I vote on March 7?
The vote on March 7 will be by precinct. Citizens who live in the Fargo School District will cast their vote at their usual polling location; due to sites being unavailable, citizens who usually vote at Atonement Lutheran Church will vote at The Bowler and those who usually vote at Calvary Methodist Church will vote at Living Waters Lutheran Church. Those polling locations are as follows:
Olivet Lutheran Church
Robert D. Johnson Recreation Center
Fargo Public Library
Living Waters Lutheran Church
Bethel Evangelical Free Church
First Assembly of God Church
El Zagal Shrine
Grace Covenant Church
For more information regarding polling locations, click here.
I’ll be out of town on March 7. Can I vote early?
Yes! There are two options available for voting before March 7 – absentee voting or early voting. Absentee ballots are available starting January 26, 2017; they may be requested in person at the Cass County Courthouse or through their website. Ballots must be postmarked or returned on or before March 6. Early voting will take place on February 27, 28 and March 1 from 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. daily at the Baymont, 3333 13th Avenue South, Fargo.
I live in Fargo, but I’ve been told I can’t vote in this election. Why is that?
The election is only for those that reside within the Fargo Public School District #1 boundary. The Fargo Public Schools has a smaller footprint than the entire city limits of Fargo. A portion of Fargo lies within the West Fargo Public School District.
If you didn't see the answer to your question, please use the Comments/Questions page link on the left hand side of this page and send your question in to the Fargo Public Schools.