Hayfield voters OK levy increase

Funds will help school district get out of debt

By Lanier Frush Holt

HAYFIELD -- A levy to dig the Hayfield School District out of debt received resounding approval from voters Tuesday night.

The measure, which will generate about $450,000 in new revenue for the district, was approved by a nearly 2-to-1 ratio, 835 to 457.


The operating levy increase will amount to about $400 per pupil unit and add about $77 in property taxes for the owner of a $100,000 home.

Superintendent Tom Knoll said the margin tells the district that the community believes in the value of education and the importance of maintaining quality programs.

The district, which serves 917 students from Waltham, Sargeant, Oslo, Hayfield and Brownsdale, has been in statutory operating debt for five of the past seven years. An audit of the books in 2001 found the district about $571,000 in the hole.

The district has instituted cost-cutting measures since 2001 and trimmed $170,000 from its deficit. But according to state law, a school district in statutory debt must come up with a plan to get out of debt and put some money in reserve.

A motion approved by the Minnesota Board of Education called for an operating levy referendum or a $490,000 cut in programs.

Knoll said that because the new levy passed, the district can start using words such as "maintain" instead of "cut."

"This tells you the voters did notice the reductions we made and were willing to reward the school board," Knoll said. "We will be rock solid financially for the next four to five years."

He said the district fell into debt in large part because of spending. Efforts to maintain costs will continue, he added.

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