Question And Answer
Moorhead School District residents will vote November 5, 2019, on a bond referendum that, if approved, will provide $110 million toward construction and renovation of secondary school buildings.
Review these frequently asked questions and the answers, or use the questionnaire to submit your feedback or question. The district will review feedback and questions. Responses to questions will be added to this page.
What is a bond referendum?
A bond referendum seeks voter approval for the school district to sell general obligation bonds, which provides money for building improvements. Bond referendum dollars cannot be used for operating expenses of a school district such as salaries.
How will these facility improvements impact learning?
Our grades 9-12 students deserve safe, inviting and inclusive learning environments that include:
- Safety and security with a welcoming entrance;
- Accessible classroom space for a growing student enrollment;
- Flexible learning spaces to promote collaboration, communication, critical thinking and creativity; and
- Performing arts space, athletic fields, and multi-purpose activity spaces for both student and community use.
What is included in this bond referendum?
If the referendum is approved, the $110 million bond would provide for growth and learning by:
- Rebuilding Moorhead High School to serve 2,200-2,400 students on the existing site; and
- Renovating the former Sam’s Club building as a career academy to provide all secondary students with multiple opportunities to explore career pathways.
Why are these facility improvements needed?
The community and school district have been growing since 2005. In the last five years, the district’s K-8 enrollment has grown by more than 850 students, and new schools opened in 2017 to address K-8 capacity. Those students will be high school students in the coming years.
How were the projects in the bond referendum developed?
To accommodate this growth and provide students with the 21st century learning experiences they need to succeed, Moorhead Area Public Schools engaged in an extensive community-driven high school facilities planning process. The task forces determined that the current Moorhead High School facility, which is more than 50 years old, lacks capacity and adequacy to meet the needs of today’s high school students. The proposed projects are a result of this planning process, which is the second phase of the district’s 2014-15 Facilities Master Plan.
How is this bond referendum different from a levy referendum?
Operating levies provide school districts money to be used for day-to-day expenses such as staff salaries, supplies, heating expenses, transportation and activities programs. These are the funds that it takes to run and operate schools. A helpful way to understand the difference is that bonds are for buildings, while an operating levy is for learning.
When was the last time voters approved a bond referendum for the district?
District residents approved a building bond referendum election in November 2015. The funds from that bond were used to address classroom space for K-8 students and provide secure entrances at the schools. Additionally, the Performing Arts Center was added to the Horizon Middle School campus.
Prior to that, district residents approved a building bond referendum election in March 2002. The funds from that bond issue were used to renovate schools and to build two new buildings. The new and newly renovated schools helped to halt a downward enrollment spiral by spurring significant housing growth. Efficiencies in operating costs were realized by moving from 11 district buildings prior to 2005 to seven buildings.
What has been the recent enrollment trend for Moorhead Area Public Schools?
In 2001, district leaders projected that enrollment would dip below 5,000 students by the 2009-10 school year. Housing growth, caused in part by the renovation of existing schools and the building of two new schools in 2004, created significant student enrollment growth.
Over the past five years the district has added more than 850 K-8 students. From 2009 to 2019, total K-12 enrollment grew by more than 1,200 students.
Didn’t district residents pass an election in 2016 to support the schools?
District residents approved a renewal of the operating levy referendum in 2016. The levy funds have been used for five priority areas:
- Support learning and operate our new and existing schools for our growing student enrollment.
- Maintain average class sizes.
- Provide a source of stable and predictable revenue to avoid reductions.
- Maintain and replace technology equipment.
- Maintain access to education programs including world languages and early childhood.
The average home in the district saw zero tax impact with renewal of the 2016 operating levy. Agricultural property was exempt except for the value of the house, garage and surrounding one acre.
Will staff members have input on the design of the schools and rooms?
Staff members have already been meeting with the architects on planning the spaces, similar to 2002 and 2015 when design teams worked with the architects.
Does the bond referendum vote require a super majority or a simple majority to pass?
Minnesota school district ballot measures require a simple majority to pass.
What happens to my property taxes if the referendum is approved?
If voters approve the school funding request, taxes would increase on the average-priced home ($200,000) by approximately $8 per month. Agricultural homestead property valued at $5,000 an acre would see an increase of $.07 a year per acre. Agricultural non-homestead land valued at $5,000 an acre would see a tax increase of $.14 a year per acre.
For agricultural property, the estimated tax impact includes a 50% reduction due to the School Building Bond Agricultural Credit (Ag2School Credit) for taxes payable 2020 compared with a 40% reduction for 2019. Average value per acre is the total assessed value of all land and buildings divided by total acres.
Commercial/industrial property valued at $500,000 that is outside the Moorhead or Dilworth city limits would see taxes increase by $40 a month. However, the tax impact for commercial/industrial properties within the city limits of Moorhead or Dilworth will be zero due to the application of the Border Cities Disparity Credit. See www.moorheadschools.org/2019bond for the impact on other property.
What are tax implications for agriculture property?
The School Building Bond Agricultural Credit originally took effect with property taxes payable in 2018. For taxes payable in 2020, the credit reduces taxes for owners of agricultural property in an amount equivalent to 50% of the taxes attributable to school district debt service for all agricultural property, except for the house, garage, and one acre. This credit is directly deducted from property taxes owed and applies to debt service levies for all types of existing and future bonds for construction and renovation projects.
For taxes payable in 2018 and 2019, the credit was equivalent to 40%. The state is phasing in an increase to the credit. It will be 55% for taxes payable in 2021, 60% for taxes payable in 2022, and for taxes payable 2023 and later the credit will be 70%. The credit is paid through an open and standing appropriation, which means that no action by the Legislature is required each year for this credit to be paid from the state general fund.
What happens if the referendum is not approved?
If voters do not approve the school funding request, secondary class sizes would increase as K-8 enrollment growth moves to the high school, and secondary students would learn in a less accessible, less efficient building.
How will new and remodeled schools affect the community?
Any new construction, either residential or commercial, that develops as a result of this proposal will grow the community’s tax base reducing the tax burden on other property taxpayers. New and renovated schools should draw increased residential growth, positively impacting student enrolment and state funding for the school district.
When and where do I vote?
Any eligible voter living in Moorhead Area Public Schools, Independent School District 152, may vote on the school bond referendum. Residents of City of Moorhead Wards 3 and 4 also will vote to fill two vacant City Council seats. Residents will vote at the polling place or combined place designated for the precinct in which he or she resides. These polling places are for this special election. Polling sites will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Nov. 5, 2019.
How can a person vote by absentee ballot?
To vote by absentee ballot for the Nov. 5 election, voters must complete and return an application for an absentee ballot. Download the absentee ballot application. City of Moorhead Ward 3 and Ward 4 Residents must return absentee ballot applications and vote by absentee ballot at Moorhead City Hall. All other school district residents must return absentee ballot applications to the election clerk for Moorhead Area Public Schools at Probstfield Center for Education, 2410 14th St. S., Moorhead, MN 56560.
We were promised to have sustainable buildings constructed. Will the new buildings have solar panels or geothermal heating to reduce future energy costs of the buildings?
The school design has not been finalized pending referendum approval. Our district always seeks sustainable options that are viable and cost effective. However, decisions on specific sustainable design features have not yet been determined.
The district has a push to provide an equitable education for all. Has the district considered career programs for the alternative school and community high? Our tax dollars go to building new jails but should be put back into preventive programs.
An important part of the 2019 referendum is establishing a career academy that would serve students at both Red River Area Learning Center and Moorhead High School giving them opportunities to explore multiple career pathways. Planning is currently focusing on seven broad pathways: health and human potential, farm to table, transportation, business/entrepreneurship, information technology, design thinking and maker trades. Research shows that students involved in a career pathway graduate at a higher rate, get better grades, and perform better and stay longer in college or careers.
Students from other school districts are allowed to attend Moorhead Area Public Schools through open enrollment. What are the numbers and how is this affecting enrollment?
Open enrollment does not add to the number of students in Moorhead Area Public Schools. The district open enrolls more students out of the district than the number of students who are enrolled into the district. The most recent finalized numbers are from the 2017-2018 school year in which 155 students were open enrolled into the district and 613 were open enrolled out of the district.
Why will the new facility still not have enough space for the projected growth?
Our most recent projections indicate approximately 2,400 grades 9-12 students by 2023. The new facility plans are designed to accommodate this growth. The high school rebuild will accommodate 2,200-2,400 students. The career academy will serve an additional 300-700 students.
Which students will directly benefit from the new spaces this referendum provides? What classes will be the first to utilize the academic space?
If the referendum passes, according to current construction schedules, the career academy will open in the fall of 2021, allowing this year’s sophomore class and below to benefit from the hands-on, minds-on career exploration that will be offered through the career academy. The academic wings, or phase one of the high school, will open in the fall of 2023. Current fifth grade through eighth grade students would be moving into the space. The entire building will be complete in the fall of 2024, making the current fourth grade class the first graduating class to benefit from the entirety of the completed projects.
What does the proposed design for the school mean for students who use wheelchairs or crutches? Were community members with a mobility challenge or a parent of a child with a mobility challenge part of the committee?
Accessibility is one of the main design drivers of the new high school space. The current high school has 12 identified levels causing a significant challenge to students and staff who are in wheelchairs, on crutches or have mobility challenges. The new design has three clear levels above ground and will be easily accessible by modern, adequately sized elevators strategically placed to provide all students with access to every part of the building.
The task force that worked on the high school plan included both parents of mobility challenged students and special education teachers.
Why doesn’t the school district consider building a second high school?
The high school facilities task force made up of 39 people from the community and the schools considered three options: build one high school on a new site ($130 million); build a replacement high school on the current site ($106 million); or build two new smaller high schools ($168 million).
After extensive research, school site visits to similar communities and input from the Moorhead community, task force members decided that building a replacement high school on the current site was the most feasible plan. This is the least expensive option and community surveys indicated the only option that fit within the community’s cost tolerance from a tax impact perspective.
The task force report provides more detail on the process that led to this decision.
How many years will we be paying for this bond?
The proposed bond would be wrapped around the existing debt payments to maintain a stable tax rate for 25 years as shown in the debt impact graph in the tax impact handout.
What is the plan with students during construction?
The construction project is planned in phases to ensure that educational excellence for students is not compromised. The career academy will be opened first. Students will be taught in the existing building and career academy while the educational wings are built to the north of the school. Watch the video showing the architect rendering of the phasing: https://youtu.be/CyEh79zbfKE.
How many lanes will the new aquatic center pool have?
The stretch 25-yard pool will have a minimum of eight lanes with the possibility of 10 lanes.