Residents of Williston Public School District No. 1 will go to the polls Tuesday to vote on two proposals to pay for new schools. Here are answers to some common questions about the plan and why the district’s school board has put forward the proposal it did.
What’s the plan?
The District 1 school board is proposing building two new elementary schools, each with a capacity of 600 students. The plan also includes an addition to Williston High School that will add room for 400 students, as well as upgrades to security and accessibility at the district’s elementary schools.
What’s it going to cost?
The board’s proposal has funding for the schools coming in several ways. The largest part will come from a $60 million bond issue. That will pay for one of the elementary schools, half of the cost of the other one and the addition to WHS. Other money will come from increasing the district’s building fund property tax levy from 10 mills to 20 mills. The rest of the money will come from the district’s building fund.
What’s on the ballot?
Residents will vote on two questions — issuing a bond of up to $60 million and raising the building fund property tax levy. The questions are separate, and both need to be approved for the plan to go forward as proposed.
Why is this being proposed?
Enrollment in District 1 is currently at about 4,365 students, but the capacity, including modular classrooms, is less than 4,000, putting essentially every building over capacity. District 1 grew by the second largest number of students between last school year and this year, behind only West Fargo.
The new schools would allow the district to move fifth graders from Bakken Elementary, which opened in the old high school building in 2016, back to the other elementary schools. That would make room for more students at Williston Middle School, which shares a site with Bakken Elementary.
Why is it being paid for by property tax?
Under state law, the only method districts have to pay for new school buildings. Other methods, including using sales tax, have been allowed in the past, but are no longer permitted. Board members have been talking with local legislators to push changes to the way districts can pay for new schools.
Why isn’t the state helping?
The state offers funding for school operations, but that money can’t be used for new buildings or upgrades. State Sen. David Rust, R-Tioga, has said he’s going to propose using state money to help pay for buildings in districts that have seen tremendous growth. In order to qualify, districts would have to have already approved increasing their building fund levy to 20 mills, the highest amount the state allows.
What’s the difference between true and full, assessed and taxable value on my property tax statement?
Property taxes are complicated and can be intimidating. One issue is there are three different values assigned to every property: True and Full value, Assessed value and Taxable value.
The formula for getting from True and Full value to Taxable value for residential property is:
True and Full value X 0.5 = Assessed value
Assessed value X 0.09 = Taxable value
To calculate how much your property tax would increase, just plug your home’s True and Full value (found on your annual property tax statement) into that formula.
For example, a home whose True and Full value is $294,800 would have an Assessed value of $147,400 and a taxable value of $13,266. If both questions are passed, its property tax would go up $631.06 per year or $52.59 per month.