Second time’s the charm

Minot voters have approved a $39.5 million bond issue to pay for construction of a new elementary school, two new elementary school additions and safety and security measures at schools throughout the district. It passed four months after voters said no to a far grander in scope $125 million school bond issue and is the first time since 1969 that voters in Minot have approved a school bond issue.

“This is good news,” said Superintendent Mark Vollmer on Tuesday. He said work should begin immediately on plans for the new school and school additions. School officials have said the bond issue was needed to help address overcrowding in district schools, where 21 portable classrooms are in use outside school buildings. Nine portable classrooms alone are in use at Washington Elementary in southeast Minot.

The bond issue passed Tuesday with 3,977 votes in favor, or 66.96 percent of the vote, and 1,962 no votes, or 33.04 percent against. The total number of voters was 5,940. That is fewer than the number of people who voted in the failed $125 million bond issue election four months ago, said Ward County Auditor Devra Smestad. That election drew 8,680 voters and drew less than 60 percent of the vote. A bond issue requires 60 percent or greater approval to pass.

The bond issue voters said yes to on Tuesday will mean taxes will go up $123.83 per year for the owner of a $200,000 home in the district. The annual tax increase will be $61.92 on a home valued at $100,000 and $185.75 per year on a $300,000 home. The bond issue is for 20 years.

Work on safety and security measures at the schools, including including the addition of buzzer systems, security vestibules, cameras and relocating school offices to central locations, will begin this summer, said Vollmer. He said classroom additions at Perkett and Edison Elementaries, including a new gymnasium at Perkett, should be completed in time for the 2015 school year. A new elementary school, to be built on land the school district already owns in southeast Minot, should be completed by the start of the 2016 school year. It will be large enough for 550 students.

Vollmer acknowledged that the bond issue might not solve all of the district’s space needs. This year’s kindergarten through second grade classes are all large classes and district wide enrollment is expected to grow by 1,000 students in the next five years.

Vollmer said school officials will keep a close eye on enrollment numbers as those students reach middle school and high school age.

“We need to watch those numbers,” said Vollmer.

The bond issue defeated in December would also have called for construction of a second high school and renovation of Central Campus into a fourth middle school for the school district.

Cost estimates for the projects approved on Tuesday are as follows: $350,000 for safety and security remodeling at Bel Air Elementary; $280,000 for safety and security remodeling at Bell Elementary; $325,000 for safety and security remodeling at Dakota Elementary; $3.225 million for a classroom addition at Edison; $25,000 for additional security cameras at Lewis and Clark Elementary; $25,000 for additional security cameras at Longfellow Elementary; $125,000 for safety and security remodeling at McKinley Elementary; $540,000 for safety and security remodeling at North Plains Elementary; $8.84 million for a classroom addition and new gymnasium at Perkett Elementary; $300,000 for safety and security remodeling at Roosevelt Elementary; $225,000 for safety and security remodeling at Sunnyside Elementary; $350,000 for safety and security remodeling at Washington Elementary; $25,000 for additional security cameras at Erik Ramstad Middle School; $350,000 for safety and security remodeling at Jim Hill Middle School; $350,000 for safety and security remodeling at Memorial Middle School; $225,000 for a security camera upgrade at Minot High School-Central Campus; $225,000 for a security camera upgrade at Minot High School-Magic City Campus; $18 million for construction of the new elementary school.

In addition, “soft costs” such as professional fees, contingencies, site survey, testing and permits is estimated at $5.7 million. “Owner costs” including bond costs, furniture, fixtures, equipment, legal fees, builders risk insurance and miscellaneous owner expenses is estimated at $1 million.

The total costs, including construction costs, soft costs and owner costs is estimated at $40.5 million.

The district will 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.