Mandan News

Wilfred Volesky: Questions on construction of new elementary school

The past two months I have attempted to answer questions that come up about the district’s plan to build a new elementary school in Northwest Mandan. This month I will try to answer some financial questions that have been brought to our attention by patrons.

How will future commercial expansion in Mandan help to alleviate the cost of the new school?

The quickest way for Mandan to lower the tax burden on its residents is to grow the tax base. The city, school district, county and park district levy in dollars not mills, which means that as property is added to the tax rolls individual tax burdens should decrease. The $35 million dollar expansion at Tesoro, the proposed $85 million MDU Natural Gas plant, Wal-Mart and the commercial development that will surround it, and all the new houses, condos, apartments and townhomes should have a very positive effect on Mandan taxes in the future.

How does the total tax levy for Mandan School District compare to other North Dakota School District total tax levies?

When averaging the last five years and making a comparison to the 16 largest school districts in North Dakota, the Mandan School District has the fifth highest mill levy. However, when we average the last five years in per pupil expenditures the Mandan School District ranks 12th out of the 16 largest school districts. This contradiction is a result of Mandan’s limited tax base.

How does Mandan’s total tax bill compare with other cities in the state?

When compared to the 12 largest cities in the state, Mandan has the fifth highest overall tax burden (school, city, county, and park district) during the 2011 tax year payable in 2012.

Compared to the Bismarck School District, what portion of each property tax dollar goes to the Mandan School District?

The Bismarck Public Schools receives $0.44 out of every property tax dollar collected with the remaining $0.56 going to the city, county and park district.  Mandan, by comparison, receives $0.38 from tax each dollar of tax collected with the remaining $0.62 going to the city, county and park district.

The City of Bismarck uses 25 percent of the city sales tax collected annually to reduce Bismarck property taxes. On the 2011 property tax bill, the City of Mandan was able to decrease the tax bill by 14 mills due to the contribution from sales tax.

What options are being looked at to minimize the cost of the new school?

The school is hoping to sell 6 acres of the 30 acres it owns in northwest Mandan to a developer so that lots can be developed and new homes can be built next to the school. The revenue from the sale of these lots should cover the infrastructure costs associated with the new school.

What infrastructure needs are there at the proposed school location?

Water, sewer and electricity are already present at the proposed location of the new school. A new road will need to be built, possibly on the south and west sides of the school. It is believed that the sale of the six acres of property will help alleviate the cost of any new infrastructure.

What would the annual cost of a new elementary school be on a homeowner that owns a $100,000 home in Mandan?

The proposed cost of a new elementary school in Northwest Mandan is $11.6 million. This would be a school that has two sections in each grade. The estimated number of additional mills necessary to pay for the school would be 11.71 mills assuming 1 mill would generate $68,160 of revenue per year and the loan rate of interest would be 3.25 percent if financed over 20 years. The additional tax on a home valued at $100,000 for the first year would be $52.70.

If the election for a new elementary school does not pass, what will happen?

If the Mandan Public Schools enrollment rises as projected and more elementary classrooms are not available the school board will need to make some difficult decisions about how to deal with the elementary space issue. One option the board has discussed is adopting a calendar that would place students into tracks and allow the district to operate the schools on a year round basis. The school board has also discussed adding portable classrooms as space allows. However, options for portables are limited in many current elementary school locations because of site limitations and the availability of gym-lunchroom space.

At the present time the school board has not set any public forums. When the public forums are set up all patrons will be notified as to the time, date and the location. If you would have any questions regarding the new school at this time please feel free to contact any of the three individuals, Wilfred Volesky, Superintendent, Mike Bitz, Assistant Superintendent or Joe Lukach, Business Manager at 751-6500.