North Dakota's governor is offering Minot additional flood assistance and help in dealing with growth issues in his proposed budget for the next biennium.
A closer look at the details of the 2013-15 state budget proposal released by Gov. Jack Dalrymple Wednesday shows a number of line items that will directly affect the area and its residents. Dalrymple, in Minot Thursday, outlined a spending plan that, for Minot and Ward County, is highlighted by $60 million for flood prevention.
Local legislators expect to look carefully at those figures to make sure the amount is enough, but Dalrymple said it is adequate to get the work started.
"At least the flow has begun," he said. "That should be as much as they can use for quite some time."
Cindy Hemphill, Minot finance director, said the $60 million should be enough to do the acquisitions and flood-protection design work, which could take a few years to complete.
"We really feel quite good about that number," she said, "We felt that was probably a good number to go with."
The State Water Commission awarded $30 million to Ward County, Minot and Burlington for home acquisitions earlier this year from an appropriation made during the 2011 legislative special session. Only a fraction of the $17.75 million awarded to Minot has been claimed because work continues to close out many of the home sales.
The governor's budget includes line items of $674,000 and $3.5 million for the North Dakota State Fair. State Fair Board president Gary Knell, Hazen, said the fair took out a Bank of North Dakota loan for nearly $3.5 million to do flood repairs and seeks state help in repaying that money. The fair also requested additional money to cover flood-related costs of repaving and to support an increase in premiums paid to exhibitors.
Dalrymple said the money to restore the flooded fairgrounds is reasonable request.
"They deserve it. They have done a lot on their own," he said. "They deserve some help to bring it all the way back."
In other flood assistance, the Rebuilder's Loan Fund would be renewed, providing loans of up to $30,000 at 1 percent interest to flooded homeowners. Dalrymple proposes to expand the program to include mobile homes, allowing displaced residents to get loans to buy their Federal Emergency Management Agency temporary units.
To address Minot's growth issues, Dalrymple's budget includes $25 million toward expansion at Minot International Airport, which would match the $25 million maximum that the airport could get from the Federal Aviation Administration. The city is developing plans for a new terminal and parking lot. The terminal cost has been estimated at $40 million, with other associated costs bringing the total to around $85 million.
First District Health Unit, a regional public health service based in Minot, would share in $1.2 million with two other health units that are looking at expansions and enhancements.
Lisa Clute, director at First District, said the unit requested $300,000 for the biennium to hire the equivalent of two full-time staff because of the growth in demand for services.
More help is needed to keep up with the number of sewer inspections and license inspections for restaurants and hotels. The unit has had extra work with inspections of flooded properties. There's also been greater demand for immunizations, Clute said.
In addition, the health unit is counting on extra funding to increase its educational efforts in areas where public health concerns are increasing, such as sexually transmitted diseases. Clute said just providing information about the health unit has become important because of the number of new people from outside the area who are unfamiliar with how public health is delivered in North Dakota.
In other proposed spending, $500,000 is included in the governor's budget for Minot Air Force Base retention efforts. This continues existing state funding.
Dalrymple proposes $1.8 million for physical plant renovations at Minot State University and an extra $4.7 million for campus operations. The operational money largely goes for staff compensation increases and more security and mental health services for students.
MSU would be eligible for a new grant fund that Dalrymple is proposing to assist the three oil-impacted colleges and universities. The schools could submit applications to address needs created by oil impact. The funding request could be for indirect needs, such as providing faculty housing in a tight and expensive housing market.
Dalrymple is offering a new higher education funding formula that he said will increase the transparency of university and college funding. The plan would base funding on student credit hours completed and would consider fields of study and level of education as weighting factors.
Colleges and universities would get $89 million more in total, of which $21 million is to ensure that no school sees a cut in funding during the transition. The money also includes a $6 million increase in scholarships.
The recommended budget includes $17 million in grant money for public schools facing rapid growth, defined as 4 percent a year. This is a reduction from the 7 percent growth required to be eligible under an existing program, but Dalrymple said the grants will be graduated so that schools with the most growth pressure will receive the most help.
A new $200 million fund would be available to provide school construction loans at an interest rate as low as 1 percent. The loans would not count against schools' debt ceilings.
Mark Vollmer, Minot Public Schools superintendent, said the district has had growth over 4 percent in particular years, but the average has been 3.5 percent annually. The percentages don't tell the whole story, though, because even at an average 3.5 percent, it amounts to 1,000 new students in the past six years, he said.
"We are being impacted heavily by the oil activity in western North Dakota and by value-added agriculture in this region," Vollmer said. "We are going to be making an appeal to the governor and legislators to make sure that Minot isn't forgotten in this funding mix."
He added that the construction fund would benefit Minot.
"We have to build new schools, and we believe we need to make some improvements with regard to overcrowded elementary schools right now," he said. "Those construction loans are a huge benefit because it does allow us to get those loans paid back quicker, and certainly with less impact on local taxpayers."
Dalrymple said Minot also could benefit from the budget's recommendations for child-care assistance. The state has been offering some assistance, including training of workers, but a new program in the proposed budget provides $5 million to pay for facilities for child care.
The state would pay 80 percent of the cost of portable units designed for care of up to 18 children. The state also would assist with renovating an existing building. Private child-care providers would need to apply for grants through a city or county.
Dalrymple estimated $5 million could provide for 20 to 25 of the portable units.