Fargo City Commissioner questions refugee resettlement program

Published: Sep. 26, 2016 at 9:01 PM CDT
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Questions continue to surround the refugee resettlement program here in Fargo and at least one of your city leaders wants answers. We already know the costs have been estimated by the county be over a quarter million dollars for last year alone, and we found out last year the costs to local schools. So just what does the City Commission want to know?

We’ve known Fargo gets the lion’s share by far of refugees coming to North Dakota. Factors such as an improved housing market, plenty of open jobs and availability of services factor in. But Commissioner Dave Piepkorn doesn’t seem convinced.

“One is how much are we spending as a city on refugees?" asked Commissioner Piepkorn during Monday’s Commission meeting. "Who approves the refugees who are coming here? Right now we have no input as a city, or county or anything and so it's an unfunded mandate."

Commissioner Piepkorn told us last week he put the topic on the agenda, saying he expects the costs to be well into the millions of dollars.

“Refugees are our guests. They’re not Americans, they're not citizens, they are our guests,” said Piepkorn.

But there seems to be some dissenting opinions on the Commission.

"The cost is not that quantifiably significant relative to what the people might think,” added Commissioner John Strand.

Commissioner Strand previously served as a member of the school board in Fargo. Last November as we brought you the impacts of resettlement to life in Fargo, that included the local schools.

"What does it cost to educate in particular just the English Language Learners? That's about $2.8 million out of our general fund,” said Superintendent Dr. Jeff Schatz during an interview last November.

The next step now is for the city to try to answer these questions and bring that information back to the next City Commission meeting.

Click the links next to this story for previous coverage of resettlement in the Fargo area, including a survey Valley News Live commissioned and paid for last fall.