Most area school districts celebrate victories
Voters were in a generous mood Tuesday, providing relief to many school districts facing a budget squeeze.
Referendum questions were approved in 14 out of 15 school districts in southeastern Minnesota. Cannon Falls was the only area district to see its levy override fail, with 54 percent of voters rejecting a proposal that would have raised $625,000 a year. Statewide, about 80 percent of school districts saw voters approve their levy referendum requests, according to the Minnesota School Boards Association.
Pine Island Public Schools Superintendent Chris Bates was among those celebrating this morning after voters approved two ballot measures. The first renewed an existing $500-per-student levy and the second will raise an additional $200 per student. Bates said it was "incredible" to see the level of support not only for Pine Island Public Schools, but also districts across the state.
"That is a great thing in the middle of very tough times for schools for us all to feel that our public can say, 'Times are tough, but we will help you out a little bit,'" Bates said.
In St. Charles, voters approved the district's first-ever levy override. Voters overwhelmingly supported a $300-per-pupil levy, which will bring in an additional $300,000 for the district. The district has been raiding its reserves for $100,000 each of the past three years in order to balance the books.
"Any time you start deficit spending, it kind of snowballs if you don't get on top if it," said Superintendent Mark Roubinek.
Why did the majority of ballot questions win support this year? Minnesota School Boards Association spokesman Greg Abbott said voters realized schools needed help.
"School districts made a good case that they needed the money," he said. "With state funding flat for eight out of the past 10 years, their community is going to have to step up and help out, and they did."