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Kasson-Mantorville voters reject levy override

By Edie Grossfield

egrossfield@postbulletin.com

It's back to the drawing board for the superintendent and school board in Kasson-Mantorville.

District voters shot down an operating referendum that would have helped balance the district's budget deficit for the 2005-2006 school year. The vote was one of five override referendums in the region Tuesday.

Because Kasson-Mantorville's failed, the district is facing between $200,00 and $250,000 in cuts, said Kasson-Mantorville Superintendent Michael Smith.

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Smith said that the vote is a good news-bad news message.

"The good news is that we had over 4,700 people vote, and it failed by less than 2 percent. The disappointing piece, of course, is that it didn't pass," Smith said. "Anytime you want to raise taxes, it's not a popular proposition. Either the citizens didn't understand that we need the money or they chose not to support it."

The levy override would have added $700 per pupil unit to the $4,891 the district receives from the state. Kasson-Mantorville is at the very bottom of the state's funding list. Smith said he thinks that has to do with property values in the district and the fact that the district has very few children in poverty.

Kasson-Mantorville continues to grow, adding about 30 students per year. However, that growth has not offset the increasing expenses, Smith said.

The next step for the school board is to see what can be cut from the budget, Smith said.

The board cut $232,000 from the current budget, primarily by reducing the kindergarten program from full-day to half-day. In addition, the board cut high school electives and increased class sizes.

Smith said he thinks Kasson-Mantorville has maintained a quality education system.

"We feel we're putting out a good product for the money," he said. "We don't get a lot of dollars from the state, and we're a low-spending district. I think we have quality staff, and, like Lake Wobegon, we've got great kids here. For the most part, the community has supported us, and it's just disappointing that they couldn't support us in this vote."

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Smith said he didn't know whether the district might do a mail ballot or wait a full year before going back to the community with another levy override attempt.

"I'm not doomsdaying, but we're going to have to take another look at what we can do better and see what we can do to get the taxpayers to support us," he said.

Other districts

Cannon Falls' request for $500 more per pupil unit passed with an unofficial 58 percent of the vote to 42 percent.

Southland's request for $847 per pupil unit passed with an unofficial vote of referendum 1,067 to 984.

Stewartville's request for $620 per pupil unit passed 2,176 to 1,995.

Winona's request for $465 per pupil unit was defeated; vote totals were not available this morning.

Staff writer John Weiss also contributed to this article.

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