Bill could make school bond referendums easier to pass

Published: Jan. 25, 2021 at 8:11 PM CST
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - Lawmakers in western North Dakota are bringing forward a bill that would make it easier for school districts to pass school bond referendums.

Currently, a supermajority of 60% must vote to approve a school bond in order for it to pass. This bill would change the percentage of voter approval needed.

The threshold for passing referendums would remain the same for school districts with populations under 4,000, but those with 4,000 to 20,000 would only need a 57% majority and those over 20,000 would require 55%.

“Thirty-nine states in our union provide direct dollars to school districts to build local facilities. There’s 11 states that don’t, North Dakota is one of them. Of those 11 states, only two require a 60% supermajority. It is harder to pass a bond issue in North Dakota than any other state,” said Superintendent of Mandan Public Schools Mike Bitz.

Supporters of the bill said if it were enacted earlier, the school bond referendums that failed by slim margins would have passed.

“Because we can’t get a bond to pass, we’re having to put up temporary schools. These temporary schools have now served the community for 10 years, plus,” said Williams County School District Superintendent David Goetz.

But some taxpayers prefer higher supermajority voting thresholds, to protect themselves from paying taxes on projects they feel don’t directly benefit them.

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