Early voters head to court

Minot voters lined up Monday at the Ward County Courthouse to vote early in the $39.5 million Minot school bond issue.

The vote is set for April 8 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Minot Municipal Auditorium, but early voting is taking place this week Monday through Thursday, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the Ex-Servicemen’s Room at the courthouse.

Ward County Auditor Devra Smestad said there had been 49 voters already before the noon hour on Monday.

“I think it’s a popular option for any election,” said Smestad.

The early votes cast will be kept secured and not counted until the official election date on April 8. Smestad said people can also cast absentee ballots, which must be postmarked by April 7. Smestad said after today people will have to pick up the absentee ballots at her office in person; there will not be time to mail the forms to recipients after today.

Smestad said people should also ensure that they have proper identification to cast a ballot. People can use a North Dakota driver’s license, a valid state-issued non-driver’s ID, a student certificate from a North Dakota university or a long-term care facility certificate. The ID should include date of birth, ID number and a current address.

People need to be residents of the Minot school district to vote in the election.

In cases where someone is homeless and wants to cast a vote, Smestad said the election workers would record the address of the courthouse as the person’s address. However, that is unlikely to happen, said Smestad.

If passed, the bond referendum would pay for construction of a 550-student elementary school on land the district already owns in southeast Minot, for classroom additions and renovations at Perkett and Edison elementaries and safety and security upgrades at other schools in the district, which would include relocating school offices to a centralized location, additional security cameras and buzzer systems to enter schools.

The district would pay for the project with a $20 million school construction loan from the state at 1.72 percent interest and by sale of $19.5 million in general obligation bonds. The district will also use a $222,000 state safety and security grant, which requires matching local funds to a total of $444,000 and by taking $592,000 from the district’s reserve fund. Business manager Scott Moum said the district would save $4.2 million over the 20 year life of the low interest loan, which the district must accept by May. The remainder would come from a $222,000 state safety and security grant, with $222,000 in matching funds provided locally, and $592,000 from the school district’s interim fund. Safety and security upgrades include additional security cameras and secure entry systems in some cases.

Taxes would go up $128.83 per year for the owner of a $200,000 home and $185.75 per year for the owner of a $300,000 home.

A 60 percent or greater majority vote is required to pass the bond issue.

School officials said the bond issue is necessary due to increased growth in the district. They also have not ruled out the possibility of seeking another bond election within a few more years to address growth at the middle and high school levels.

Voters defeated a $125 million bond issue in December. The April 8 bond issue is a scaled-back proposal.