Grand Forks School Board approves $79 million referendum ask

If successful, the referendum would come with an annual tax burden of $96.93 per $100,000 of appraised residential property.

From left to right: Cindy Johnson, executive secretary, Superintendent Terry Brenner, Board President Dr. Eric Lunn, Vice President Amber Flynn, and board members Josh Anderson and Bill Palmiscno listen to a presentation from ICON Architects regarding a proposed Valley Middle School referendum during the Grand Forks School Board's regular meeting on Monday, March 6, 2023.
Joe Banish/Grand Forks Herald

GRAND FORKS – The Grand Forks School Board on Monday approved $79 million in requests for a planned May 16 referendum.

If the referendum succeeds, $55 million would go toward rebuilding a new Valley Middle School, $6 million for a central kitchen facility housed at the Mark Sanford Education Center and $18 million for security upgrades to schools. The estimated annual tax burden per $100,000 of appraised residential property would be $96.93, according to Brandon Baumbach, the district’s business manager.

Kyle Kvamme, principal director of community engagement at ICON Architects, the firm assisting the district with the referendum planning process, said that approving the referendum’s requests is only the beginning of a lengthy planning process.

“There won’t be a single staff member at Valley who isn’t engaged in the process,” said Kvamme. “There will be a formal design committee, we’ll talk with administration, with the board. There are weeks and weeks of conversations that will happen, and thousands of decisions that need to be made.”

Kvamme also said the district’s three community design input sessions provided the opportunity for students, staff, parents and community members to outline their vision for a new Valley Middle School. He said participants were thorough in their design renderings, and didn’t hesitate to list specific features they did not want included in a new Valley.


“I would say it’s humbling that the list of likes was very short, compared to the list of dislikes or wonders,” said Kvamme. “That means people were paying attention, they were curious. One of the biggest common themes from that exercise is that participants wanted sixth, seventh and eighth grade in separate wings.

The referendum will be held as a special election, with polls open from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. on Tuesday, May 16. The referendum requires a 60% majority in order to pass.

Superintendent Terry Brenner also presented the board with a report on capital investment projects taking place within the district. These include $6,172,394 in HVAC repairs at Ben Franklin Elementary School, funded through Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief, also known as ESSER dollars.

In other board news:

  • The superintendent evaluation committee provided Brenner with a positive March evaluation, and extended his contract for a period of three years. Brenner’s new contract period will commence on July 1 and end June 30, 2026.
  • The board voted unanimously to reject a lone bid from Dietrich Transportation Services to provide student transportation services, and reopen the bidding process. According to Baumbach, Dietrich, which has been contracted for transportation services since 2021, has raised its rates significantly, increasing its per-route rate from $260.72 to $469.00, an increase of 79.9%.
Banish covers news pertaining to K-12 and higher education, as well as county commission coverage.
What To Read Next
Get Local