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Grand Forks School Board approves $117 million preliminary budget for 2022-23 school year

The budget includes new expenditures for staff recruitment efforts, such as an employee referral program, advertising and job fairs.

Mark Sanford Center Grand Forks schools logo sign tower.jpg
The Mark Sanford Education Center, headquarters of Grand Forks Public Schools. (Grand Forks Herald photo)
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GRAND FORKS – The Grand Forks School Board approved a preliminary operating budget of $117.7 million for the 2022-23 school year – an increase of about $2 million over last year’s budget – at its regular meeting Monday, Aug. 8.

The district’s preliminary budget is due to the county auditor by Wednesday, Aug. 10. A final budget, which should be approved by the board in September, is due Oct. 10.

Board member Bill Palmiscno, a member of the board’s finance committee, said “it is a conservative budget” that brings the district closer to the goal of a 15% carryover balance – recommended by education leaders – by the end of the 2025-26 school year.

The budget includes new expenditures for staff recruitment efforts, such as an employee referral program, advertising and job fairs.

A public hearing on the budget is planned for 6 p.m. Sept. 26 at the Mark Sanford Education Center.

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Career Impact Academy

In other action, the board approved the district’s plan to submit several forms, concerning the Career Impact Academy, that are required by the state Department of Public Instruction for construction projects in excess of $150,000.

The CIA will be built on the site of the former Holiday Inn near the intersection of Highway 2 and 42nd Street North. The bidding process will begin later this year, with construction on the project expected to begin next spring, said Brandon Baumbach, school district business manager.

It is anticipated that the facility will open in fall 2024.

The 50,000- to 60,000-square-foot facility will provide education and training in career and technical fields students — including students from outlying communities — as well as adult learners. Proposed programs include engineering, nursing and the building trades.

By late 2021, more than $11 million had been raised from businesses and other interests in this area to qualify for a $10 million grant from the state.

Energy cost savings

Also Monday, the board heard an update and discussed options presented by ICS Consultants on a Guaranteed Energy Savings Contract. The update included details on four options for projects that would result in energy cost savings in utility costs in 14 district buildings over the next five years.

The projects, which would be carried out over the next two summers, would improve heating, cooling, ventilation, lighting and central control systems in most of the district’s buildings.

Those systems typically have a functional lifespan of about 20 years, the consultants said, but with larger mechanical systems, that time frame could extend up to 35 years.

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The consultants estimated the costs would range from $5.6 million to $13.2 million, with as much as $5.6 million being paid for by energy savings. The projects would be funded by a combination of guaranteed energy savings and building fund dollars, Baumbach told the board.

From 2008 to 2021, the district’s energy expenses have increased an average of 4% each year. Indoor air quality, along with safety and security improvements, have been identified as top priorities by the board and district administration.

The report highlighted Red River and Grand Forks Central high schools – the largest schools in terms of square footage – as accruing the highest energy costs.

Districtwide, electricity and natural gas costs account for the highest energy costs, at 57% and 26% respectively.

The board did not take action on this agenda item, since it was intended for discussion only. But board members expect to hear from the ICS Consultants during a future meeting.

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Related Topics: GRAND FORKS PUBLIC SCHOOLS
Pamela Knudson is a features and arts/entertainment writer for the Grand Forks Herald.

She has worked for the Herald since 2011 and has covered a wide variety of topics, including the latest performances in the region and health topics.

Pamela can be reached at pknudson@gfherald.com or (701) 780-1107.
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