Scale back school bond

Steve Ruppel, Minot

Minot taxpayers should see more, not less, of the state’s economic benefits reflected in our tax bills. Energy-related and post-flood population growth has visibly increased Minot’s public service demands for infrastructure and facilities without having the revenues to finance them. Roads, schools, and other public facilities have become increasingly congested.

Due to increased development, the city recently approved $37 million in new bonded debt for new infrastructure projects and Minot’s utility rates have increased 22 percent this year. At the same time, city resources must address flood recovery and protection efforts while financing needs to bring aging infrastructure up to standard.

With recent increases to our local sales tax for economic, county and community infrastructure improvements and many residents still impacted by the flood, Minot taxpayers are now being asked to approve an increase of up to 51 mills or the sale of up to $125 million in bonds for improvements to our public schools.

While on the one hand, the state has increased its share of the school funding though mill levy reductions and provided appropriations for oil impact and flood aid, in my opinion, they haven’t done enough to address the growing infrastructure needs in our community. The state doesn’t allow impact fees used by other states as a method of shifting a portion of the burden of the upfront costs (schools, sewer trunks, water mains, emergency services, etc.) needed to support new construction to the development itself.

We’ve also heard that the state’s billion-dollar Common Schools Trust Fund cannot be used for large capital school building projects while others indicate the state has a constitutional obligation to provide these schools.

I can support the building of a new 550-student elementary school ($18 million est.) to address moving students out of portables. However, I feel a scaled-back proposal of the lion’s share of the remaining costs ($83 million est.) for buying property in North Minot, building a second 1,400-student High School and renovating the existing Magic City Campus to accommodate a 9-12 grade configuration should be re-examined.

Our community leaders should develop an alternative plan to bring to a vote redirection of a portion of our current local sales tax for necessary classroom additions and renovations or pursue other state legislative funding opportunities (e.g., implement impact fees for locations impacted by growth (with exceptions for new low income housing) or shift a portion of the available state trust’s income to these types of infrastructure projects.