School district won’t receive grant

Minot voters can expect to pay more to finance school safety upgrades.

Minot Public Schools Superintendent Mark Vollmer told school board members Thursday that the district did not receive a $1.3 million Energy Impact grant it had applied for through the Board of University and School Lands.

Vollmer said the board had hoped to apply the grant funding toward the safety and security improvements, which include such things as additional surveillance cameras, buzzer systems to enter schools and relocating school offices to central locations.

Voters approved a $39.5 million bond issue in April that will fund the safety and security upgrades, in addition to construction of additions at Edison and Perkett Elementaries and construction of a new elementary school in southeast Minot.

Vollmer said the district was turned down for the grant in large part because the Land Board gave priority to schools that are not located in hub cities, defined by the North Dakota Legislature as a city that has at least 12,500 people and more than 1 percent of public employees engaged in the mining industry. Hub cities like Minot receive some energy impact dollars from the state. Hub cities receive $375,000 each fiscal year for each full or partial percentage point of private employees engaged in the mining industry. Minot officially has about 4 percent of its private workers employed in the mining industry.

However, under the funding formula adopted during the 2013 session, Vollmer said that 75 percent of the funding that school districts in hub cities receive in energy impact dollars have to be deducted from the per pupil aid the districts receive from the state. For the Minot Public Schools, that means the district got to keep $250,000 out of the $1 million it received in energy impact funding as a hub city.

Vollmer said those numbers don’t necessarily take into account people employed in support industries, such as trucking. He said Minot Public Schools have been significantly impacted by the oil boom, particularly due to the increase in the number of students it must serve. Vollmer said school officials plan to ask state legislators to take a closer look at the funding formula during the 2015 session.

The bulk of the safety and security improvements are to be made during the summers of 2015 and 2016, though some additional cameras may be installed this fall at the high schools.

Architect Wayne Whitty of Anderson Wade Whitty also said that plans are under way for construction of the new elementary school in southeast Minot.

The board also heard that the Ward County Auditor has not yet released property tax valuations for school district property that lies in the county, so business manager Scott Moum has not yet been able to calculate a mill increase for the coming school year. The budget will be reviewed in September and district residents will have an opportunity to speak at a public hearing at that meeting.