You’ve got to hand it to Fargo School Board member Paul Meyers. He isn’t afraid of confronting his critics. Fresh off of suggesting that Valley News Live TV host Chris Berg likes slavery or something, Meyers called in to the Jay Thomas Show on WDAY radio on Friday where I was guest hosting and accused me of misleading the public and mispronouncing his name (it’s Meyers not Meyer), among other things.
The audio really is something to behold. If you want a caricature of arrogance in government, look no further than Meyers. What seemed to set him off with this guest column by West Fargo resident Corey Eslinger (Eslinger wrote the column, I didn’t “quote” him as Meyers suggested) which was critical of Meyers and the rest of the school board.
Unfortunately, Meyers struggled with the facts. He claimed he didn’t suggest that Berg approves of slavery (he did, the video is here) and he also tried to claim that the Fargo School District has cut its budget. But when I asked him to describe those cuts to me, I got a second or so of silence followed by some bluster about how complicated the budget is.
The truth is that the Fargo School District hasn’t cut the budget, and won’t have to cut their budget even if voters don’t approve the district exceeding the state’s property tax mill cap by the end of 2015. As it happened, I had Bismarck Rep. Mike Nathe, who chairs the House Education Committee, scheduled to be on the show right after Meyers called in. I had asked Nathe on to give some facts about how much money the school districts have received to go along with the mill levy cap.
Nathe’s numbers were eye-opening, and pulled from the school district’s own financial report which you can read below.
On page 10, check out the ending fund balance for the school district. They’re sitting on nearly $30 million in their general fund, and that’s in addition to over $31 million in the district’s building fund.
And the school district has been collecting more revenues than they’ve been spending. School Board members have claimed that the district would suffer a $1 million budget shortfall if they can’t exceed the mill levy cap, but on page 13 of their own report you can see that the district ended the last school year with $2.1 million more in revenues than expenditures (the balance was added to the aforementioned $30 million general fund).
You can also see these numbers in this report (page 2) from the state Department of Public Instruction. Revenues were about $134 million. Expenditures were about $132 million. The ending fund balance is over $29 million.
Meyers seems to think that he can intimidate his critics with anger and bluster, but facts are facts, and the facts aren’t on his side.