Schools prepare second bond proposal

The Minot school board is hoping the second time will be the charm this spring.

Voters defeated a $125 million bond issue on Dec. 10, but the school board plans to ask voters to approve a scaled back bond issue proposal at some point before May 15.

If passed, the bond issue would pay for construction of a new elementary school on land the district already owns in southeast Minot, the construction of additions at Perkett Elementary and Edison Elementary, and safety and security measures at schools in the district.

“There is no dollar amount attached to it right now,” said business manager Scott Moum, but he gave a rough estimate of $35 to $40 million. The district will ask its consultant to fine tune the proposal and come up with a firm dollar amount.

The district has been approved to receive a $20 million school construction loan from the state, but must notify the state by May 15 if it will accept the loan. The district can’t accept the loan without having a way to pay it back.

The $125 million bond issue defeated in December would also have funded construction of a new high school and the renovation of Central Campus into a fourth middle school for the district. Superintendent Mark Vollmer said, in his judgment, those projects are still needed but the need for more space at the elementary level is the district’s most pressing need. Vollmer said, as of Thursday, the district has 7,438 students enrolled in grades K-12, up from 7,400 in December. There are 21 portable classrooms in use at elementaries around the district. Washington Elementary is the most overcrowded and has the most portables in use. Board members said they want to get kids out of the portable classrooms, judging them inefficient and a security concern.

Moum also presented a report he said shows that, even if the bond issue had passed, most people would still have paid substantially lower school property taxes this year thanks to property tax relief provided by the State Legislature. Moum obtained three real property tax statements from three home owners. The owner of a home assessed at $162,400 in 2012 paid $1,030.57 in school property taxes in 2012. The same home was assessed at $164,200 in 2013 and that home owner paid $605.75 in school property taxes in 2013, with the property tax relief. If the bond had passed, that home owner would have paid $376.84 in school property taxes and would still have had a 32.4 percent reduction in total property taxes from 2012 to 2013, according to Moum’s estimates.

The second example given was of a home owner whose home was assessed at $189,600 in 2012 and at $227,600 in 2013. That home owner paid $1,203 in school property taxes in 2012 and $839.64 in school taxes in 2013. If the bond issue had passed, Moum estimated that home owner would have paid $522.34 in school taxes in 2013, but would still have paid 19.8 percent less in total property taxes. The Minot voters will ask voters to approve a bond issue to pay for new school construction

The third example given by Moum was a home owner whose home was assessed at $305,600 in 2012 and at $339,300 in 2013. That home owner paid $1,939.31 in school taxes in 2012 and $1,251.75 in 2013, with the property tax relief. If the bond issue had passed, that home owner would have paid $778.69 in school taxes in 2013, but would still have had an overall tax bill that was lower by 25.8 percent from the previous year, according to Moum’s calcualations.

“Even if the bond had passed, all three of these home owners still would have paid less in property taxes,” Moum wrote.