AS I SEE IT
By Neal A. Shipman
On Jan. 8, the McKenzie County Public School District No. 1 will be holding a special election asking district voters to approve two ballot questions. One is to approve a $35 million bond to construct a second elementary school in Watford City, while the second is to approve increasing the district’s Building Fund levy from its current level of 10 mills up to 20 mills.
While no one likes to see their local taxes increased, the school district absolutely needs the support of the voters to meet the projected growth in student numbers. Currently, the district has over 1,800 students attending classes in the three existing buildings that have a maximum capacity of 2,000 students. By next year, to meet the anticipated enrollment growth, the district is already accepting the fact that it will once again be forced to use portable classrooms for the next several years. And with the district estimating that student enrollment will hit 2,600 students by the start of the 2023-24 school year and then reaching 3,800 students just five years later, it is clearly obvious that additional school buildings are going to be needed.
When it comes to the increased taxes that property owners in the school district will have to shoulder, they will be far less than what taxpayers in other school districts across the state would have to bear. And that is due to the fact that in McKenzie County nearly 30 percent of the tax load is being paid by commercial businesses, while close to 54 percent of the needed tax dollars come from the oil and gas industry companies that have gas plants and pipelines in the school district. The remaining 16 percent of the tax burden to build the new elementary school will fall on residential and agriculture property owners.
That means that residential property owners, within the school district, will see their taxes increase by an estimated $58.48 per $100,000 based on the true and full value of their home, while the owner of a 640-acre parcel of agricultural land will see their taxes increase by $121.60. That is a pretty small price to pay to build a much needed second elementary school.
A “yes” vote on both of the questions on the Jan. 8 ballot will not only provide the school district with the opportunity to have a second elementary school open by the start of the 2020-21 school year, but it will also provide the district with the ability to quickly be able to meet the educational needs as its enrollment continues to grow.
Voters in the school district have a history of strongly supporting past bond issues to construct new schools. The last time was in March of 2014 when by a 90 percent approval, voters passed a $27 million bond referendum to build the new high school.
On Jan. 8, the McKenzie County Farmer encourages McKenzie County Public School District No. 1 voters to vote “yes” on both measures.