Mike Bitz: Bond issue – frequently asked questions
In a little over two weeks voters in Mandan will be going to the polls to decide whether or not to allow the Mandan School District to build a new elementary school. I encourage you to get the facts regarding the bond issue and vote.
You can get factual information by going to the school’s website, mandan.k12.nd.us, and clicking on the Bond Issue icon on the right side of the page.
Below are some of the most common questions that I have been asked over the last few weeks concerning the bond issue.
1. Is the Mandan School District enrollment increasing?
Yes, especially at the elementary level. In the last year alone, 93 new K-5 students have enrolled in the Mandan School District. In 2007-08 Mandan had 1,280 students enrolled in grades K-5. This fall our K-5 enrollment is 1,536 students. That is an increase of 256 students in our elementary schools. It is also important to remember that in 2007-08, the kindergarten students only attended school half-time, meaning that only half the space was required for kindergarten at that time.
2. What are the future enrollment projections?
RSP, a national planning firm that specializes in forecasting demographic changes in schools and communities, predicts that over the next five years Mandan Public School will see an increase in enrollment of 502 students. The majority of the enrollment increase (385 students) will be at the elementary level. For comparative purposes, Roosevelt and Mary Stark Elementary Schools currently enroll about 270 each in grades K-5. RSP forecasts are shown to be 97 percent accurate.
3. Is a two-section school large enough to meet the current and projected growth in the Mandan School District?
Based upon what we know now, the two-section school proposal will alleviate the class size concerns we are experiencing today and for the near future. Specifically, the school will address the need in the NW quadrant of Mandan, where approximately 260 students currently live north of I-94 and west of Sunset Drive. The additional classrooms will also take pressure off of all other elementary schools that now have students being bused from the northwest area.
To accommodate additional growth in this area beyond what is now being projected, the school will be designed with a gymnasium, cafeteria, and other common areas to be large enough to allow expansion of this school. In addition, the district has purchased land in southeast Mandan as a potential site to address future growth in this geographical area as the need arises.
4. What is the cost of the proposed Elementary School?
5. What is the tax impact for homeowners?
The maximum yearly tax increase for homeowners will be $48.24 for property valued at $100,000. This translates to roughly $4 per month. If the actual cost comes in below $12.5 million and if the tax base continues to grow beyond its present level, the actual cost assessed to owners of property valued at $100,000 will be less than $48.24 per year.
6. What is the interest rate on the bonds?
Current interest rates are at 2.6 percent. In 2005, when Mandan patrons approved the construction of the Mandan Middle School, the district sold bonds for roughly 5 percent. By paying an interest rate of 2.6 percent instead of 5 percent on a new $12.5 million elementary school, the district will save over $3.8 million dollars in interest over the next 20 years. We are working on refinancing the debt on the Middle School to take advantage of the great interest rates available today. We believe it would also be wise for Mandan to take advantage of the current interest rates to build a new elementary school.
7. How do Mandan’s taxes compare to other cities (school and overall tax burden)?
When compared to the 16 largest school districts in North Dakota, Mandan has the fifth highest mill levy. However, Mandan Public Schools consistently ranks in the bottom third of these school districts in per pupil expenditures. This contradiction is a result of Mandan’s limited tax base. The Bismarck Public Schools receives $0.44 out of every property tax dollar collected in their school district. Mandan Schools, by comparison, only receives $0.38 from tax each dollar of tax collected in the District.
The city of Bismarck uses 25 percent of the city sales tax collected to reduce Bismarck property taxes. Currently, because of its limited retail sales, Mandan is unable to do the same. When compared to the twelve largest cities in the state, Mandan has the eighth highest overall tax burden (school, city, county, and park district).
8. How will the operating expenses of the new school be covered?
Mandan currently receives roughly $4,000 per student in state foundation aid. This means that the 502 additional students that will enroll in Mandan by 2016-17 will generate $2,008,000 per year. In addition, the property taxes on new construction necessary to support the housing needs of these new families will contribute to the Mandan School District general fund. The revenue from these two sources will more than cover the operating cost of the proposed new school.
9. Has the School District visited with the City of Mandan and the Mandan Park District about the proposed new school?
The school and the park district have already met and discussed how the two entities could possibly cost share on the development of the green space surrounding the school and about the park district using the gym in the school for after school and summer activities. The school district also has visited with the City of Mandan about the location of the new school, traffic patterns, and infrastructure needs.
10. When is the Mandan School District Bond Referendum?
Tuesday, Sept. 25. Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
11. Where do I vote?
Mandan Public School District residents can vote at any public elementary school, at Mandan Middle School, or the Brave Center. Below are the addresses of the seven polling sites:
1. Custer Elementary School, 205 Eighth Ave. N.E.
2. Fort Lincoln Elementary School, 2007 Eighth Ave. S.E.
3. Lewis & Clark Elementary School, 600 14th St. N.W.
4. Mary Stark Elementary School, 405 Eighth Ave. S.W.
5. Roosevelt Elementary School, 305 10th Ave. N.W.
6. Mandan Middle School, 2901 12th Ave. N.W.
7. The Brave Center, 901 Division St. N.W.
12. Can I vote absentee?
Yes. To download an absentee ballot application go to mandan.k12.nd.us and click on the Bond Issue icon on the right side of the webpage.
I would welcome the opportunity to come out and visit with your group or organization about the upcoming bond referendum. Regardless of whether your group is chartered like the Kiwanis or Lions or an informal group that gathers for coffee or cards, I would like to meet with you. Please give me a call at 751-6500 or email me at Mike.Bitz@msd1.org so we can schedule a time that works.