AS I SEE IT
By Neal A. Shipman
The voters of McKenzie County Public School District No. 1 have the opportunity to be an important part of the future of Watford City and its educational system on Tuesday, March 11. On that day, voters will decide the fate of a $27 million bond issue to construct a new high school in Watford City to meet the school district’s growing student population.
While there has been much discussion on the merits of building this new educational facility, it really boils down to only two issues. One, how much is it going to cost the typical school district patron to build this $50 million high school? And two, how great is the need for a new facility?
Financially, while there are always property owners who don’t like to pay more taxes, this is one time when the cost that the local taxpayers are being asked to pay is a small part of the total project cost. Of the total $50 million construction cost for the new high school, local land and homeowners are going to be asked to contribute about 16 percent toward the project, while nearly 70 percent of the tax burden is going to be paid by oil industry infrastructure and businesses (pipelines, gas plants, etc.) with the balance coming from other funding sources.
Yes, current property owners in the district will see their tax bill go up because of the bond issue for the new high school. But it is also important to remember that as more new homes, retail businesses, commercial property, gas plants and pipelines are built, the per individual cost of this bond issue going forward is going to get smaller.
While there is never going to be a cheaper time than right now to build this new high school, the overriding need for the new school is to meet the rapidly growing student numbers in the district.
As hard as it is to remember, there was a time not that many years ago when our school district was giving serious thought to educating the entire K-12 student population in our existing high school. But those days of declining enrollment have now been replaced with record enrollments.
Today, the district has over 1,000 students, and the projections are for enrollment to reach over 1,600 students by 2017-2018.
Obviously, the existing two buildings which have a capacity of 1,150 students, cannot house that number of students. And without a new facility, the only option is for the district to install portable classrooms on every available piece of land that they have available. And portable classrooms for some 450-plus students cannot be a long-term solution for quality education.
Watford City has always been a progressive community and the citizens of this area have always risen to the challenge of building the facilities that we need. We’ve seen that progressive attitude when it came to revitalizing our Main Street, the building of the Multi-Purpose Building at the Fairgrounds, the Veterans Memorial Building, the Wild West Water Park, the Children’s Playground and the American Legion Baseball Field, to name just a few.
And now, the time has come for the people of this area to once again rise to the new challenge of making sure that our educational system can meet the new demands that are being placed upon it.
Vote “Yes” on Tuesday, March 11. It will be a vote that you, the patrons of McKenzie County Public School District No. 1, believe in the education of our youth and for the future of this community.