add 2x grand meadow referendum resultsAUST
By Karen Colbenson
Post-Bulletin, Austin MN
Voters in the Grand Meadow School District passed a levy override 405-339 Tuesday, but rejected a second proposal in the split referendum.
The operating levy referendum was the second vote to take place in Grand Meadow in five months.
The ballot contained two questions.
The first, which was passed, asked voters to replace the existing referendum of $853.01 per pupil with a new referendum of $1,200 per pupil for the next 10 years, with annual rate-of-inflation increases.
The second proposal, which was rejected 408-337, asked for an additional increase in general education revenue by $240 per pupil for 10 years, which would have brought the total operating levy to $1,440 per pupil — the amount requested in a referendum last November that failed.
Superintendent Joe Brown said he is pleased that the first, and "most important" part, of the levy passed.
"We are very proud of our community for coming out and voting in favor of question number one," he said. "It will send a powerful message to the region that we care about children and our schools."
Brown credited the local "Vote Yes" committee, formed after the failure of the initial referendum, for educating the community on the need for an increased levy.
In November, Grand Meadow voters turned down a levy override increase 391 to 281. Because it didn’t pass, the school board has had to slash almost $400,000 of next year’s budget, with several programs and teaching positions falling victim to a majority of the cuts.
Because the second part of Tuesday’s levy didn’t pass, Brown said it will be difficult to bring back some of those programs. However, because of the strong support for the first part and the recent budget cuts, the district should be able to come out of statutory operating debt by next year.
According to Brown, half of the increase will be allocated to maintaining programs, and half will be used for building up the district’s cash reserve. The district currently has no cash reserve; Brown believes it will take about eight years to build it up to an appropriate amount of $600,000.
About 1,090 people voted Tuesday — 76 more than in the November election.
"Those extra votes were really important," said Brown.