The Jamestown Public School Board on Tuesday unanimously approved a special election for voters to consider a $34.4 million general obligation school building bond.
The election will be Tuesday, Sept. 25, at the Jamestown Civic Center. Absentee ballots will be available from the Stutsman County auditor’s office on Aug. 11. Sixty percent of voters must vote in favor of the school obligation bond in order for it to pass.
The referendum was recommended by the Citizens Advisory Committee, said Robert Lech, superintendent of Jamestown Public School District. The committee members said they felt the projects and the budget would be supported by the school district, he said.
“Now is the time for the democratic process to work and let the community say that this is something we want or that it’s something we don’t want,” Lech said.
The cost to taxpayers is based on receiving a $10 million construction loan from the state of North Dakota along with $24.4 million in 20-year general obligation school building bonds that would amount to an estimated 37 mills increase to the school district levy. The estimated annual property tax increase would be $166.21 per $100,000 of residential value, according to the school district, $184.68 per $100,000 of value of commercial property, or $1.65 per acre of cropland and 34 cents per acre of non crop ag land.
The project includes heating, ventilation and air conditioning for the middle school and elementary schools except for Washington Elementary, which would close upon completion of an addition to Louis L’Amour Elementary. Capital projects include roofs, windows and boilers, renovations, learning spaces, safety and security upgrades.
A transition house and a $7.5 million athletic complex with a turf football field and shared facilities with soccer would be built at the high school.
Several board members said community feedback was focused on supporting the overall project if one item or another was removed. The discussion about having the school district share a football field with the University of Jamestown was among them, said Bob Toso, board member.
The school board will need to make a serious effort to educate the public on these issues, Toso said. It is the only way that this will pass.
“These things have to be addressed,” Toso said.
A shared agreement with UJ has been discussed for several years and continues, Lech said. It hasn’t worked in the past because what’s right for the school district is not always what is right for all parties involved, he said.
“We will keep that door open and when the time is right we will do a sharing agreement if it works for the school district and our partners,” he said.
After the meeting, Bill Nelson, JHS football coach, said an all-sports complex with its proximity to the high school and other athletics is not just a football field. The complex can be used for multiple purposes including academics, band, youth and middle school football, he said.
“The opportunities that it opens up are so much more and I realize that the football field is what is going to jump out at people, but that’s not what it’s about,” Nelson said. “It’s about what is best in the long term for everybody.”
Heidi Larson, vice president, said she supported the project but wanted to be sure there would room to alter the plan if new information arises that was not available to the Citizens Advisory Committee.
That would be possible as long as changes work within the overall plan that was approved by voters, Lech said. There would likely be an executive committee with board members, administrators and the construction manager at risk to fine tune changes that come with any project with the responsibility to work within the cost guidelines, he said.
Jason Rohr, school board member, asked if the committee had explored new school construction versus additions and renovations. It could reduce the maintenance costs in the long run, he said.
The committee considered two new elementary schools at one point, Lech said. The addition was preferable given the costs of new construction, he said.