Grand Forks voters spoke, and quite clearly, when they shot down a proposal to build a new school on the city’s north end. Their voice on the second part of the ballot that day – to raise funds to fix infrastructure and other woes at campuses throughout the district – wasn’t quite as clear.
If a recommendation from the Grand Forks School Board’s finance committee is approved by the School Board, voters will get a chance to speak again.
Less than a month after the citywide election, the board on Monday, July 12, will discuss the possibility of another vote, to be held in September. This time, voters would reconsider whether to move ahead with a 10-mill increase in the district levy, which would add approximately $2.5 million each year into the district’s building fund. The monthly tax from the mill increase would be a $3.75 increase per $100,000 in assessed property value.
Meanwhile, the $86 million proposal to build the new school was overwhelmingly defeated on June 22, receiving 3,758 “no” votes to 1,658 in favor. That proposal is dead, at least for the foreseeable future.
The proposal to raise the mill rates for renovations and upgrades at all schools saw 2,942 “yes” votes to 2,476 “no” votes, showing a majority of the voters favored the idea. It required a 60% majority to pass, but fell short, at about 55%. If only 155 of those who voted “no” had changed their mind, the measure would have passed.
It’s worth it for the board to reignite this discussion, and the sooner the better. Board member Doug Carpenter, who heads the finance committee, said if the measure is OK’d by the board Monday and then given final approval Sept. 28, it would allow tax payments to begin in January.
We suggest anyone who has an interest in the issue attend the board meeting and voice their concerns or encouragement. In the weeks leading up to the June 22 vote, several people – including sources in Herald stories and letter writers – said district leaders could have done better with providing information on the referendum.
More discussions, surveys and public meetings probably wouldn’t have salvaged the district’s hope to build the new north-end school and close down two others. However, the other part of the proposal – to raise funds for improvements at schools throughout the city – shows promise.
It’s worth bringing it up and voting again, and especially after a majority of voters were in favor of the plan.
This time, the district could promote it with an effort backed by public-information sessions and discussions. The pandemic has subsided enough that more input can be taken and more information distributed.
If the board on Monday accepts the finance committee's recommendation and directs the administration to prepare the resolution to bring to the board for a vote at its July 26 meeting, "we would have a very defined timeline to get out and talk to the public," School Board President Amber Flynn said Tuesday. Carpenter said that timeline would be “a chance for the public to come to us and say, it's too soon.”
Is it too soon? No.
Act now while it’s still fresh in voters’ minds. Let the voters speak once more.