Grand Forks voters will have a second chance to weigh in on the question of raising the mill levy – from 10 to 20 mills – for the school district’s building fund.
Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 28, at the Alerus Center, 1200 S. 42nd Ave.
Tuesday’s election marks the second time this year the mill levy has been brought before voters. It was also presented in a June 22 referendum, which additionally asked voters to approve an $86 million bond issue that included $64 million for a new K-8 school, consolidating several north-end schools on the Valley Middle School site, and other districtwide facility needs.
Both questions failed to gain the 60% favorable votes required to pass. The mill levy increase garnered about 54% yes votes, while the bond issue secured a 30% yes vote.
The question of the bond issue – adding the new north-end school – has been dropped, and will not be on Tuesday's ballot. That leaves only the question about increasing mills to raise funds for improvements at all local public schools.
Twenty mills is the maximum the state allows for a school district’s building fund. A mill is a unit that equals, in property tax terms, $1 of tax for each $1,000 of assessment.
Voters may view a 13-minute presentation about the district’s facilities and budget, and the upcoming election, on the "GF Schools" YouTube page.
If voters approve the mill levy increase, the monthly tax impact to the owner of a home valued at $100,000 would be $3.75, or $45 annually. The monthly tax impact for the owner of a commercial property valued at $100,000 would be $4.17, or $50 annually.
For more information on the 10-mill special election, go to www.gfschools.org/referendum. A calculator that shows the specific tax impact, based on property value, is available at this website. In the right column, under “Links,” click on “Tax Information.”
If approved, the mill levy increase would generate about $2.5 million annually in property tax revenue for the building fund, according to Scott Berge, business manager for Grand Forks Public Schools.
District administrators have stressed that the average age of its buildings is 54 years, several aging school buildings have had catastrophic equipment failures, and some need major infrastructure repairs, such as the Grand Forks Central High School pool which has been closed and may cost $2 million to repair.
Because of a series of infrastructure repairs over the past six years, the district has had to draw about $11.5 million from its general fund, which should be dedicated to student programs, learning materials and competitive compensation to attract, develop and retain high-quality employees, Superintendent Terry Brenner said.