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Grand Forks Schools takes next step for three mill levy increase

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Residents in Grand Forks Public Schools could see a bump in property taxes for the 2018-19 school year.

The School Board unanimously gave preliminary approval Monday at its regular meeting to increase its tax levies by three mills, which would generate roughly $700,000 a year for emergency spending, according to the district.

The increase would appear on 2019 tax statements. But first the School Board must hold a public hearing on the proposed tax levy increase, school business manager Ed Gerhardt said in a memo. That will be held at 6 p.m. Sept. 10 at the Mark Sanford Education Center.

The levy increase does not need to go to a public vote. The board would have to give final approval before Oct. 10, the deadline for submitting a budget to the Grand Forks County auditor, Gerhardt said.

If a resident had a home with a market value of $300,000, they would see an increase on their annual tax bill of $49.14, or almost 3.75 percent from the 2017-18 school year, according to calculations from the district.

Board members have discussed the possibility of a mill levy increase, as it expects to have a 2018-19 budget operating over $1 million in the red. The district has other reserve funds to cover the deficit, but it will have to do something—either reduce spending, generate more funding or both—in the coming years if the state Legislature doesn't increase funding, school officials have said.

Board President Bill Palmiscno said the board should look at earmarking the funds for a narrower purpose so residents understand why the entity is raising their taxes. State language allows for a broad definition under emergency funds, but board member Doug Carpenter said it may be wise for the district to communicate to the public why the funds will be used—for example, facilities.

"I think it is our responsibility to the public," board member Eric Lunn said.

The board didn't choose a specific designation for the funds generated by the levy increase.

In other news, a policy review committee reviewed language that, if approved, will allow students to serve on the full School Board.

The policy will be reviewed by the full board, with a first reading on Aug. 20. It suggests designating two students who are in grades 11 or 12 who would represent the district's student body.

The superintendent and board president would approve nominations from principals, according to the draft policy. The students would serve for one year beginning July 1.

April Baumgarten

April Baumgarten joined the Grand Forks Herald May 19, 2015, and covers crime and education. She grew up on a ranch 10 miles southeast of Belfield, where her family raises registered Hereford cattle. She double majored in communications and history/political science at Jamestown (N.D.) College, now known as University of Jamestown. During her time at the college, she worked as a reporter and editor-in-chief for the university's newspaper, The Collegian. Baumgarten previously worked for The Dickinson Press as a city government and energy reporter in 2011 before becoming the editor of the Hazen Star and Center Republican. She then returned to The Press as a news editor, where she helped lead an award-winning newsroom in recording the historical oil boom.

Have a story idea? Contact Baumgarten at 701-780-1248.

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