A new, centralized, $14.5 million facility for the Barnes County North School District is one step closer to becoming a reality, as the Barnes County Commission approved the use of a County Auditor’s Lot in Uxbridge Township for the construction of the new building, pending the approval of the County Planning and Zoning Board, which will review the issue on Thursday.
BCN Superintendent Doug Jacobson said the BCN School Board had approved forming a building authority following three unsuccessful votes to build the school using taxpayer funding. The new building had gone to a district vote three times, each time failing to gain the super majority of 60 percent to go through. While the vote always managed to get at least half of the residents’ support, there was opposition to building the new facility at the expense of taxpayers in light of a potential reduction in enrollment numbers.
“The nice thing about a building authority, and one of the concerns that some of the folks in our district had was that their taxes go up,” Jacobson said. “With us being much more efficient by going to one building, we do not have to raise taxes to build this $14.5 million building. The building authority - by law - does not allow you to raise taxes.”
Jacobson said the state of North Dakota has been interested in consolidating smaller districts into one co-operative district. Currently, BCN has three campuses in Spiritwood, Wimbledon and near Rogers.
The cost of constructing the new building will be covered by the sale bonds, which Jacobson said have already been accounted for. The Superintendent said by moving to one facility, the savings from not operating three facilities will be enough to make the annual bond payments.
Barnes County Commissioner Rodger Berntson pointed to the fact that for tax purposes, agricultural land is facing up to a 31 percent increase in evaluation, and every acre the county loses - in this case 40 acres for the building, athletic facility and bus garage - makes an impact on the county’s bottom line.
“I’m right on the edge of the North Central School District where I live, so I know I’ll be getting calls,” Berntson said.
Jacobson countered by saying that the BCN district is looking to build and operate the new building without burdoning any residential taxpayers.
“It’s our obligation to use public money responsibly,” Jacobson said.
Barnes County Commission Vice Chairman John Froelich, who was acting as chair in the absence of Commissioner Cindy Schwehr, said “Since it’s just an auditor’s lot, and we’re doing it contingent on the Zoning Board (which includes County Commissioners Froelich and Eldred Knutson) which is going to be meeting on Thursday night, I guess I think it’s the proper thing to do.”
The Barnes County Planning and Zoning Board meets 7 p.m. Thursday night in the Commission Chambers on the second floor of the Barnes County Courthouse.