Goodhue, K-W pass referendums; Cannon Falls' failsThis year, Minnesota saw the highest voter approval for school district operating levies since 1997, the Minnesota School Boards Association reported. Out of 114 districts holding levy votes, 90 were approved, including those at Goodhue Public Schools and Kenyon-Wanamingo Public Schools.
By: Sarah Gorvin, The Republican Eagle
This year, Minnesota saw the highest voter approval for school district operating levies since 1997, the Minnesota School Boards Association reported. Out of 114 districts holding levy votes, 90 were approved, including those at Goodhue Public Schools and Kenyon-Wanamingo Public Schools.
“The people in the community have wanted to support their schools,” Goodhue Supt. Robert Bangtson said.
Goodhue’s request to replace its expiring $126 per pupil levy with a $500 per pupil levy passed 360 to 165. The new levy will run for 10 years.
“It gives us a portion of our funding that’s going to be consistent,” Bangtson said.
For Kenyon-Wanamingo, the approval of its levies means the district can avoid cutting programs.
“This next year … we would be starting to look at some major cutbacks (without the levies),” Supt. Jeff Evert said.
Residents voted 618 to 333 in favor of renewing the district’s current $126 per pupil levy and 479 to 467 in favor of an additional $173 per pupil levy.
“I think people were looking at that pretty hard,” Evert said of the close results on the second question.
Seven years ago, Kenyon-Wanamingo was in statutory operating debt, Evert said. At that time, the district set a goal to keep at least two months of operating expenses in its general fund balance, as recommended by the state.
“We’ve reached that goal now,” Evert said. But recently, the district saw expenditures start equaling revenues. And, without Tuesday’s approval of the levies, “eventually we’d start dipping into that fund balance,” Evert said.
With recent talk in the state Legislature about limiting school levy votes to even-year elections - citing generally higher voter turnout during those years - both superintendents said they were pleased with the number of ballots cast for Tuesday’s special election.
However, Evert noted that with about 35 percent of its residents voting, turnout was lower than other years.
“The big election years, you usually get more people out,” he said.
Still, both Evert and Bangtson said the advantage to holding off-year elections is that it allows voters to focus on one election, not lower voter turnout.
“When I look at that, what could be more transparent than having one thing for the voter to focus on?” Evert said.
“The advantage is there’s really only one thing on the ballot,” Bangtson said.
He credited the approval of Goodhue’s levy with not only the voters’ willingness to help the school, but also a clear message.
“I did feel most people were informed,” Bangtson said. He added that without other elections going on, “people can say, ‘Let’s see what you got, let’s hear it and discuss.’”
Evert credited a transparent campaign, as well as keeping the request reasonable, for the district’s success. He said the Kenyon-Wanamingo School Board and finance committee worked hard to make sure they were asking for an amount that would cover school needs, but still be reasonable for taxpayers.
“We tried to pare it down to give the district revenue and not break the property owner,” he said.
Both Evert and Bangtson thanked the community members for their support.
Cannon Falls’ request to replace its current $500 per pupil levy with a $950 per pupil levy did not pass, with 928 yes votes to 1,099 no votes. Pick up a copy of Wednesday’s Republican Eagle for more on how the election will affect the school district.