With the Langdon Area School Board passing a motion to put a mill levy up for vote to the public finalizing on January 6, many community members may wish to understand what this represents before casting their vote. To protect public health and safety and in accordance with Governor Burgum’s Executive Order 2020-19 and 2020-19.1, this vote will be conducted by absentee ballot only. Ballots will be sent out by the school but can also be obtained by either picking one up at the high school or by contacting the school business manager, Shauna Schneider, at 256-5291. There is also a ballot request form located on the school's website www.langdon.k12.nd.us. Locate it at the top of the homepage under the 'elections' drop down menu. This form can be printed and mailed to:
Langdon Area Public School District No. 23
715 14th Avenue
Langdon, ND 58249
Absentee ballots can be submitted any time between December 1, 2020, through 5:00 P.M. on January 5, the day before the election. Absentee ballots may be deposited in a secure absentee ballot box located at the entrance to the high school or mailed to the following address:
Langdon Area Public School District No. 23
715 14th Avenue
Langdon ND 58249
Currently, the school building and grounds committee has the ability to request up to three mills. Each mill represents $38,328. The three mills available are used for basic maintenance and school facility needs. The vote will essentially be a request from the board to have the ability to obtain up to ten mills. This increase would secure funds needed to address an outdated heating system in the elementary school building. Being over 50 years old, this system shows signs of corrosion and has passed its life expectancy.
Chris Olson, president of the Langdon Area School Board and member of the building committee, offered further understanding about what a mill levy increase will represent and what benefits the community might see if the vote passes. Olson posited that during the last mill levy vote, there may have been a misperception among the community on where additional mill levy funds would be implemented. He clarified, per North Dakota Century Code 57-15-16, funds can only be used for building and facility needs of the school district. This would include major repairs, maintenance, and improvements to school-owned grounds and properties.
With a levy vote being struck down in the past, Olson stated that the building committee chose to approach the district's needs in a different way. The proposed levy increase would focus solely on the largest need the school faces - replacement of the elementary heating system. Originally, a levy of up to 15 was considered to cover the cost of various projects including the heating system. Ultimately, after three separate heating system quotes were obtained, it was decided to request only 7 more mills to the current 3, equaling 10. If passed, the school would enter into an agreement with Northern Plains Mechanical of Fargo for a quoted max cost of 1.9 million for the elementary heating system. This option was chosen by the board as their heating system met the unique needs of the school while proving the most cost effective. Projected payments would be $250,000 a year for 10-15 years. A levy of 7 mills would generate $266,000 a year to cover that cost. This system is estimated to last over 50 years with minimal upkeep as it has few mechanical components. Olson also stated that a request of 7 additional mills does not mean they would need to levy that total amount. It is the board’s intention to levy only what is needed to cover payments on this heating system. Available grant money and the possibility of coming under budget might offset total estimated cost, thus reducing the number of mills necessary to make the payment and reducing the number of mills requested each year. After the projected payments are complete, the mills would return to a maintenance only state of funding until future projects are necessary.
Northern Plains Mechanical's proposed project would bring many improvements by replacing the current system. It would start by repurposing current tunnel infrastructure as an exhaust outlet. Natural gas water boilers would heat an intake of cleaner fresh air to distribute from new ceiling vents throughout the school. Heating and cooling controls would be installed in each classroom allowing independent digital control from room to room. As the current system does not provide cooling, this benefit would be new and reduce the humidity level in the building. Cold water would be used to cool air as it is recirculated. Automatic system controls would also allow the school to cut utility costs by reducing consumption during off hours such as nights, weekends, and holidays. Olson stated, “Not only will the new design be more efficient, but it will also give the students and staff a better environment to learn and work in.”
Updates to the high school heating system were also considered to be bundled into this project at a marginal additional cost. However, as relief funds and grant money fully financed this portion of the project, it is already financed and will proceed regardless.
Ultimately, it will be up to the public to decide. Either way, the issue of an outdated heating system will not go away as it continues to age. The school board has concerns on the ramifications of if and when the current system breaks down. Distance learning while repairs are made could be a possibility. Leaving the district searching for funds to repair a system that remains the same model is of concern. Olson stated, in support of the levy, “Public schools are a necessity for our community, and the young people that are taught in the schools are the future of this great community. If we want to keep this community flourishing, we must invest in the infrastructure. That is how we keep the next generations wanting to raise their families here.”