Cannon Falls eyes cuts after failed referendumSupt. Todd Sesker knew it would be a tough sell.
Supt. Todd Sesker knew it would be a tough sell.
Three years after asking voters to open their wallets to help build new facilities in the Cannon Falls School District, he and others went out again, this time in search of new operating money.
The request: an additional $350 per pupil, an amount Sesker and district leaders said would stave off about $400,000 in looming budget cuts.
On Tuesday voters sent the district what Sesker said was a strong message.
"We heard very loud and very clear from the taxpayers that the board needs to make some cuts next spring," he said Friday.
Voters rejected the referendum 58 to 42 percent.
The measure's failure means the district can't attempt another referendum until November 2011. Meantime, Sesker and the Cannon Falls School Board turn their attention to the alternative - reducing an approximately $400,000 budget deficit in 2011.
Sesker said that will mean cutting jobs. That teaching jobs will be among those falling under the axe is "a definite possibility," he said.
He anticipates a gut-wrenching process, after having carved more than $1 million from the district's budget over the past four years.
"It's not just hard," Sesker said. "(It's) almost to the point of devastating."
He said he will likely recommend a budget fix combining cuts with revenue increases and a dip into the district's fund balance.
Tuesday's vote came three years after the district received voter approval through a two-part $21.2 million referendum calling for construction projects and renewed student funding. That referendum approved new operating funds and extensive construction projects at district buildings.
Sesker said some voters cited the 2007 vote as a roadblock to supporing Tuesday's referendum.
"That certainly had a lot to do with it," he said.
But, he noted, that was before economic recession swept across the country. Meanwhile, state education funding has not kept pace with inflation, Sesker noted.
"And the expenditures keep rolling in," he said.
School Board Chairman Bob Brintnall, who served on the pro-referendum group with Sesker, agreed with Sesker that other factors - not just the recent building referendum - impacted the vote.
"I would like to think this is due to the economic times," Brintnall said.
The 30-year Cannon Falls resident said he has witnessed a citizenry that's been highly supportive of district budget issues over the years. Brintnall said he's not upset by Tuesday's response, and said the School Board must now be responsive to the voters' message.
"They told us what they wanted us to do," he said.
Sesker said he would like to see all cuts finished by March, in order to give laid-off workers time to find new jobs.
He also predicted the district will attempt to seek another referendum next year, but "the message will definitely change" after the cuts: "If you want these back, here's what you have to do," Sesker said, alluding to the prospect of lost jobs.