WILLISTON Williston voters will be asked to approve a $55 million school bond issue on Dec. 11 that could mean a hefty tax increase.
Supt. Viola LaFontaine said taxes would go up about $370 per year for every $100,000 of a home's full and true value.
The money would pay for needed school construction and renovations for the rapidly expanding school district.
"In the last four years we've added about 600 students," said LaFontaine, who said most of the growth is at the elementary level. There are a total of 2,806 students in grades K-12 in the school district.
If the bond issue is passed, the money would pay for construction of a new elementary school where Rickard Elementary is located, which would open in 2015 if all goes as planned. The elementary construction would be followed by construction of a new 5-8 middle school where Wilkinson Elementary is currently located. The current Wilkinson Elementary would be torn down.
The district's elementaries would eventually become K-4 elementaries and fifth- and sixth-graders would be moved to the new middle school. LaFontaine said that would enable the district to free up four classrooms at each of the elementaries and also enable the fifth- and sixth-graders to benefit from a state-of-the-art
science and technology curriculum they can't get at the elementaries.
The third phase of the plan is to renovate the high school, using part of the existing middle school, which is currently next to the high school.
LaFontaine said the plan might be adjusted depending on construction costs, which have been rising in western North Dakota and which might increase further in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
LaFontaine said she plans to ask for assistance from the 2013 Legislature but thinks the district will have a stronger case in getting funding if voters approve a bond issue. She said Bismarck and Mandan both recently passed bond issues and she expects those school districts to also be in line asking for funding.
LaFontaine said the district has held public information forums. No one has indicated the plan is not necessary, she said, but there is concern over the cost.
"That is a significant amount of money for many people," she said, and Williston is a property-poor district so a lot of the tax burden falls on the shoulders of the property owners. She thinks it will come down to whether people feel they can afford the added tax burden.
The bond issue needs 60 percent or greater approval to pass.