GFPS Referendum - June 22, 2021

You are invited. Facebook Live Q & A regarding the GFPS referendum. Thursday, June 17, 2021. 5:30-6:30 p.m.

Video #4: Proposed K-8 Campus Design

Video #3: Question 2

Video #2: Question 1, Part 2

Video #1: Question 1, Part 1

Referendum Information

  • We solicited community voices in our work.

    •  The Facility Task Force work provided critical voices in support of an increase in the Building Fund and operational referendum.
      • Build a new K-8 campus for West, Wilder, and Winship elementary schools and Valley Middle School.
        • Modern middle school to replace Valley Middle School.
        • Modern elementary school to replace West, Winship, and Wilder elementary schools.
        • Replacement of West Elementary School and Valley Middle School, as renovation is no longer viable.
      • New centralized kitchen to be relocated to the Mark Sanford Education Center.
      • Complete high-priority projects at several schools to provide special education and medically fragile students with respectable and equitable facilities; modernize and repair aging systems; address safety, security, and accessibility concerns (ADA).
    • The Grand Forks School Board reviewed the Facility Task Force recommendations and through four workshop sessions, they have largely supported their recommendations.
    • The community provided feedback through a survey (February-March 2021) and there is support for the Facility Task Force recommendations.

    We have aligned our work to our Strategic Plan and our three strategic priorities of academics (high-reliability schools framework), comprehensive mental health system, and resource management and long-term planning.

    • The master facility plan represents the largest local taxpayer-funded component of the Strategic Plan and requires a successful referendum in order to fund the plan.

    We are looking at a variety of funding sources to reduce the local tax impact, including grants/rebates, federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund, self-funding energy projects (ex: LED lighting, digital controls, etc.).

    • This referendum includes a Building Fund increase and General Obligation Bond Issuance.

    We have reduced our costs.

    • The Grand Forks School Board Finance Committee commissioned Grand Forks Public Schools administration to reduce costs, of which $3.9 million was approved by the School Board. This will be realized in 2021-2022 through reducing staff, cutting costs, and decreasing future liabilities.

    We have done our research.

    • Grand Forks Public Schools remains one of the lowest-funded large school systems in the state. Among the five largest school systems in North Dakota (Bismarck, West Fargo, Fargo, Minot, Grand Forks), Grand Forks:
      • Spends the most on capital project expenses from the General Fund proceeds (approximately $500 per student during the 2019-2020 fiscal year).
      • Has the highest maintenance costs per student.
      • Has the smallest Building and Sinking Fund Mill Levies.
      • Receives significantly less overall local property tax.
    • This is not about spending - this is about funding.
      • When excluding facility maintenance costs, Grand Forks Public Schools is living within the current financial structure.
    • In 2013, the North Dakota Legislature took on a higher portion of the school district and county funding. Currently, approximately 65% of General Fund Revenue comes from the state of North Dakota.
      • Since 2018, inflation and social security cost of living increases have outpaced North Dakota per pupil payment increases.
    • Monthly expenses during the school year can exceed $9 million. A healthy fund balance is 15% of annual expenses, or approximately $17.25 million for Grand Forks Public Schools at this time.
      • The General Fund balance on June 30, 2021 would be $11.85 million higher (or approximately $16.8 million in total) had we not needed to pay construction expenditures from the General Fund the past seven years.

    We have compared our facilities against national standards.

    • Not all buildings are built to bring in fresh outdoor air, which helps to reduce absenteeism and lower the transmission of infectious agents in buildings (EPA, 2020)
    • Current unit ventilators are inefficient, in poor condition, affect the acoustics in the classroom, and are no longer manufactured.
    • Several of our buildings do not have air conditioning. Temperatures at the warm end of the comfort zone tend to increase adverse health symptoms (EPA, 2020)
    • Many of the mechanical systems that were put into place following the 500-year flood in 1997 are now at the end of their life and need to be replaced. 

    We are planning for the future

    • RSP & Associates has worked with Grand Forks Public Schools for five years and provides annual enrollment projections.
    • An additional 10 mills in the Building Fund would generate approximately $2.5 million more in property tax revenue annually.
      • This will get our facilities back on track and avoid these same circumstances moving forward.
    • Additional Building Fund revenue would allow for General Fund dollars to be reallocated to provide more competitive compensation to attract, develop, and retain quality staff.
    • Projects to be funded by a referendum will reach throughout the boundaries of the school system.

    Overall

    • We view the referendum as a solution to several challenges and urgent needs in our school system.
    • Grand Forks Public Schools can no longer keep pace with small local property value increases, stagnant state funding, and increasing operational costs.
    • Without the Building Fund increases and bond referendum passing, Grand Forks Public Schools would need to initiate additional budget cuts, which would include eliminating more staff positions, freezing salaries, ceasing purchases, charging additional fees for athletics and activities, etc. 
      • This would be over and above the $3.9 million in cuts implemented for the 2021-2022 fiscal year and the estimated $4-5 million in cuts the following year.
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