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D-G-F waits to revive school construction issue: Two decisions from state legislature needed

DILWORTH -- Planning for another school construction vote in the Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton School District is on hold until the Legislature decides on "two critical components" in coming weeks, Superintendent Bryan Thygeson said.

DILWORTH - Planning for another school construction vote in the Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton School District is on hold until the Legislature decides on “two critical components” in coming weeks, Superintendent Bryan Thygeson said.

Bills that would allow D-G-F and the Moorhead School District to swap land and change their attendance boundaries are now working their way through the House and Senate.
In addition, legislation that would give a tax break to owners of farmland to offset property tax hikes for school construction could be a game-changer with rural voters, Thygeson said.
He said the land swap bill is “critical to move this thing forward.”
Several housing subdivisions on the east side of Dilworth have for decades been part of the Moorhead School District.
Many of the children who live in that area open-enroll into D-G-F schools. While D-G-F does get the state education aid that follows those children, the property taxes their parents pay go to Moorhead schools.
That was a sore point in last November’s failed $31.5 million referendum for many D-G-F voters, who felt their property taxes would be increased to build schools to teach kids from another school district. About one-third of D-G-F students are open-enrolled from other school districts, most of them from the Moorhead district.
District 4B state Rep. Paul Marquart said last week that having the land swap legislation in the Senate education bill and in the House education finance bill is a good deal.
“When I was mayor of Dilworth in 1990, they were trying to get this,” Marquart said. “This has been a long time in coming. It will greatly benefit the students living on the east side of Dilworth.”
What has been dubbed “ag to school” legislation is part of the omnibus tax bill left over from last year that awaits action in a House tax conference committee, Marquart said.
Fred Nolan, executive director of the Minnesota Rural Education Association, said the legislation would give farmers an income tax credit to offset 50 percent of the property taxes paid annually for school bonds. The bill would also allow credits for bond issues already passed, like the $78.28 million in bonding approved by Moorhead School District voters in November, he said.
Nolan said the bill is needed for districts like D-G-F, where more than 60 percent of the taxable valuations are in ag land, which means farmers foot most of the bill for schools.
While there is at least one other tax bill that takes on the school bonding issue, “this is the big one,” said Nolan. He hopes the Legislature decides to take on taxes yet this session.
The legislation could cut the tax load for farmers in 288 districts, he said.
“That will have a statewide impact that will affect farmers’ taxes starting next year,” Nolan said. “It would affect them whether they were in Rothsay or D-G-F, anyplace that has bonded debt.”

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“We see that when things happen in the coastal areas, a few years later, they start trending toward the Midwest,” said Rep. Ben Krohmer, serving his first term in the House.
“This is sensationalism at its finest, and it does not deserve to be heard in our state capitol,” Rep. Erin Healy, a Democrat and one of 10 votes against the bill in the 70-person chamber, said.
“Let’s put this in the rearview mirror,” Sen. Michael Diedrich, a Rapid City Republican said.