Refugee resettlement: City of Fargo trying to find out the costs

Published: Oct. 10, 2016 at 10:37 AM CDT
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The Fargo City Commission will be discussing the refugee resettlement program at Monday night’s meeting. The central question in the debate: what are the costs of the program?

For Cass County, the city found the 2017 budget to be estimated at about $74.1 million, with the Human Services portion at $12.5 million. Taking out the federal and state money, the cost to the taxpayers is $9.1 million. The City says roughly 10-12% of the social service caseload is believed to be people not born in the U.S. and Cass County Social Services does not track who is, and who is not a refugee. Furthermore, Social Services has a $20,000 contract with the New American Consortium for “basic services”.

The cost to Fargo Public Schools was also examined. As we’ve reported, $2.8 million is budgeted for the English Language Learner program (ELL). The City reports $800,000 of that is federal and state funding, and roughly 25% of new enrollees are connected to Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota. They City also mentions the free and reduced lunch program, however there is not state or local funding of that program.

For the City of Fargo, they support the Police Department which employs a Cultural Resource Officer, the Cultural Planner in the City’s Planning Department, Cultural Diversity Resources, the New American Consortium and the Skills and Development Center. The cost is $43,000, $15,000 of which comes from federal dollars.

The City also reached out to the National League of Cities for help, which offered information from the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service. The provided study found that federal funding only accounts for 39% of total resources needed. Furthermore, the study found that the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM) is wrong in their estimates of staff needed for social services. The study suggests “approximately 2.5 times the staff budgeted through the PRM grants.”

Click the link next to this story to read the information in full that will be presented before the Commission Monday night. The refugee information begins on page 4.