Solutions still needed for JPS
Two special elections on Tuesday in two North Dakota school districts resulted in very different results. Voters in the Jamestown Public School District defeated a proposed $34.4 million referendum, while those in the West Fargo Public School District approved a $106.9 million proposal.
Does that mean the voters in the Jamestown school district don't want good schools and facilities for the children in the district? Certainly not. But the vote showed they wanted something other than what was proposed.
The two elections asked for something very different from property owners: $161 per $100,000 residential value in Jamestown and $15.81 per $100,000 in West Fargo after the district retires previous debt. The differences in population and tax base between the two cities make a significant difference in how the respective proposal impacts the property owner.
The election results do not necessarily mean the voters of Jamestown don't recognize the problems facing Jamestown Public Schools, but the solutions presented were too expensive.
While those backing the measure no doubt are disappointed, they shouldn't shy away from moving forward with efforts to solve the problems in the district. Other ways to resolve issues can be explored. The district can prioritize, look for partnerships and cost sharings and find a more economical proposal to bring to the voters. The University of Jamestown remains a viable potential partner. UJ said in a statement to The Sun last week that UJ and the school district have shared facilities in the past for youth sports and UJ is interested in continuing discussions on expanding that collaboration for football and track and field. While it would not be an athletic complex as envisioned, it is a viable alternative to consider.
The school board could also look at whether an increase in the school's building fund bond levy from its current 10 mills could help it meet some of the critical needs it has said need addressing. That would require voter approval as well.
While no one likes tax increases, a step such as this could give the district more funds to help resolve some of the buildings' maintenance issues and yet be far lower than the 35 mills proposed in Tuesday's special election.
Jamestown cannot ignore the problems presented by the school board. The challenge becomes finding solutions that make financial sense to the voters.