Third public forum held for schools
Continued growth in the Minot school district will mean some difficult choices ahead for district residents, school board president Jim Rostad said Monday.
During the third public forum held this spring, consultant DLR group laid out six possible options that would help address the explosive growth that is expected to continue in the district. Most would call for voters to approve a bond issue in late fall.
The first, and most expensive, proposal would cost a combined $145.5 million. It would pay for construction of two new K-5 elementary schools, both with the capacity for 600 students; converting Minot High School-Central Campus into a fourth middle school, building a second high school and renovating Magic City Campus and having two 9-12 high schools, both with the capacity for 1,400 students. The consultant estimated that this would cost the owner of a $200,000 home in the district an additional $535 in property taxes each year for 20 years and would raise the mill levy by 59.64 mills. Supt. Mark Vollmer pointed out that this amount would be roughly the amount of the tax break given to property owners by the Legislature during the 2013 session and would mean that next year’s tax bill would look about the same as this year’s for a Minot voter. “It would be taking the decrease the Legislature is offering and reinvesting it back into the district,” said Vollmer.
The second option would cost $125.5 million. Again, it would call for construction of two new elementary schools and converting Central Campus into a fourth middle school and having two new 9-12 high schools and construction of a new high school, but it would leave out renovating Magic City Campus to accommodate more students. It would raise the tax bill for the owner of a $200,000 home by $462 per year and raise the mill levy by 51.5 mills.
The third option would cost $42 million. It would involve just building two new elementary schools and making no changes at the middle school or high school levels. It would raise the tax bill for the owner of a $200,000 home by $155 per year and raise the mill levy by 17.28 mills.
The fourth option would cost $33 million. It would involve construction of one new elementary school, utilizing portable classrooms at the current elementaries, and building additions as needed at existing elementaries. Nothing would be done to the middle school or high schools. It would raise the tax bill for the owner of a $200,000 home by $122 per year and increase the mill levy by 13.6 mills.
The fifth option would simply address “deferred maintenance” at existing schools, without building any new schools or additions or doing anything to address the growth in the district. It would cost a combined $63.5 million. It would cost the owner of a $200,000 home an additional $235 per year in taxes and would raise the mill levy by 26.2 mills.
The last option presented was to do nothing.
The estimates did not take into account the likelihood that more people moving into the district will add property to the tax rolls, thus spreading the tax burden and lowering the tax bill for property owners, said business manager Scott Moum.
Construction costs in the area are continuing to rise at the rate of 6 to 10 percent each year, according to the consulting firm. Normal growth is about 2 to 3 percent per year. Waiting to build needed schools will likely result in a more expensive project.
Growth in the school district has been explosive, with as many as 1,000 more students expected to attend by the 2016-2017 school year, according to Robert Schwarz, demographer and principal planner for RSP, a firm based in Overland, Park, Kansas. That would put total district enrollment at more than 8,000 students. He said continued growth at that rate is projected to continue for the next decade. Vollmer said this year’s kindergarten class was at 743 students, while this year’s graduating senior class was at 453. The numbers of students in grades K-2 this year will exceed the current capacity of the middle schools in another five years.
Rostad urged voters to call and give the board feedback. The board will be making a decision about how to proceed based on input from the public and the report submitted by the consulting firm.