School referendum is set for SeptemberRed Wing voters will decide Sept. 9 whether or not to beef up local school funding.
By: Mike Longaecker, The Republican Eagle
Red Wing voters will decide Sept. 9 whether or not to beef up local school funding.
That was the date Red Wing School Board members narrowly approved on Monday, with supporters saying September polling could mean better chances at getting the district funding referendum passed.
“We need to give it a fair opportunity to succeed,” School Board member Stephen O’Keefe said.
Board members will wait to see if the Legislature modifies state education funding before deciding on a referendum amount.
Supporters of the September date said separating school funding from national issues is important, provided the public is afforded the time and information to make an informed decision.
Voters at November’s general election — the other potential date board members debated — could force rash decisions, School Board member Neela Mollgaard said.
“I’m not willing to take that risk, personally,” she said.
The board voted 4-3 in favor of the September date, with members Mitch Boldt, Dave Jonas and Tim Kelly dissenting.
Mollgaard and other backers of the September date noted that if it fails, the district could hold a second referendum vote later in the year.
If the referendum fails, the district faces a $2.1 million funding deficit heading into 2009.
Some on the board pushed for the general election date, saying higher turnout would be more reflective of the entire community’s intent.
“I don’t want to leave a shred of doubt,” Kelly said in supporting the November date.
His argument addressed concerns among some that a September primary — traditionally more sparsely attended than a general election — would draw more from ardent supporters of school funding, and not necessarily the average taxpayer.
Supt. Stan Slessor, who backed the September referendum, said he has encountered “shadow” or “whisper” campaigns during his tenure in public school systems.
Those tactics have made easy wins for referendum supporters by holding elections on obscure dates and revealing little to the public, he said.
“That’s not what this will be about,” Slessor said. “This will be fair.”
Though he did not vote for the September date, School Board member Mitch Boldt said he’s not disappointed with the outcome.
It won’t cost any more or less than a general election and will be held during a formal primary election date.
“Both will be fine,” Boldt said.