Strong approval for school referendums in most of stateby Conrad Wilson, Minnesota Public Radio
Collegeville, Minn. — School referendums generally did well at the polls Tuesday with roughly 70 percent of district requests for money approved. Approval was stronger where districts asked to extend an existing levy. Only in the Rocori School District in central Minnesota did voters reject an extension.
The Rocori district asked voters to extend two levies: one for $276,000 annually that expires at the end of the year, and a separate levy for $800,000 a year that runs out in 2013. Neither passed.
That means less cash and more cuts for the district, which has already made cuts close to $1.5 million over the last 12 years, said Nadine Schnettler, Rocori School Board chair.
Even before the requests for approval failed, it was likely the district would have to make further cuts at the end of the year. Now, greater cuts are certain, with possible teacher layoffs.
"Rocori, like any other school district... 85 to 90 percent of our budget pays for people because of the nature of our business," Schnettler said. "When you have to make reductions in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, obviously to get to that magnitude, you know, it's very likely going to be people."
The vote result means area residents will see the school district's portion of their annual property tax bill fall. According to estimates, a home valued at $200,000 will save close to $60 a year.
Those savings matter to Don Simon. He sits on the Rockville City Council and voted against extending the levy. Simon said two years ago voters approved funds for a nearly $30 million middle school.
"Most of the people that I know in this town here, a lot of them who I talked to say we're getting taxed enough already," he said.
Simon said he supports the district. After all, his kids attended the schools. But just like everything else in this economy, the school district isn't immune to budget woes and cuts, he said.
"You know, try and live within our means a little more so to speak," Simon said.
Still, others would have liked to see the levies extended.
Hans Christofferson of Cold Spring voted to maintain funding for the district and is discouraged by the outcome. His wife teaches English at Rocori High School, but he's not worried about her job, Christofferson said.
"I think education is one of the most important resources we can put money into. And I know Minnesota, by in large, is very good about that compared to other state's I've lived in," Christofferson said. "At the same time, it doesn't take much to lose your momentum and I think the repercussions of that could really be substantial down the line."
District officials said when the $800,000 levy runs out two years from now, the issue will likely come before voters once again.
- All Things Considered, 11/09/2011, 5:52 p.m.