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Z-M voters approve levy

ZUMBROTA - Voters turned out to the polls in swells Tuesday, where they overwhelmingly approved a levy referendum.

Referendum supporters carried the day 1,100 to 567. Supt. Richard Meyerhofer called the election results "huge" for the district.

"If it would have failed, we were seriously looking at needing to cut $850,000 in our spring budget," he said. "It would have meant losing programs and losing staff members."

The referendum boosts per-pupil spending by $250 at Zumbrota-Mazeppa schools. The new operating levy replaces the current referendum, which expires later this school year.

Z-M officials said property taxes on a $150,000 home would increase $97 annually under the new referendum.

New referendum dollars will go toward keeping the district financially stable, Z-M officials said last month. School leaders said all-day, every-day kindergarten, and programming for high-achieving students would be among possible new expenditures.

With Tuesday's voter approval, Z-M joins Red Wing, Lake City and Cannon Falls as Goodhue County school districts that have passed referendums since 2006.

Meyerhofer said that tally speaks to area residents' commitment to schools.

"I would like to think that we have top-notch schools in this part of the state and I think the patrons are aware of that, and they are willing to sacrifice some of their tax dollars," he said.

Moving forward, Z-M School Board members must be "cautious and responsible" with tax dollars, Meyerhofer said.

Election observers at Zumbrota's elementary school saw voters lining up by 11 a.m. - one hour before the polls opened there.

Voter registration forms had to be replenished halfway through and "I voted" stickers were exhausted before the night was through, election judges said.

"I've never seen it like this," Zumbrota election judge Dick Myran said.

Polls also were open in Goodhue, where four candidates challenged for three School Board seats.

Incumbent Wayne Hahn was unseated in that race. New faces on the School Board will be Brian Schafer and Michelle Goodman.

Incumbent Mike Kehren was the leading vote getter, sealing his re-election bid with 315 votes. Schafer received 305 votes, while Goodman secured 221. Hahn finished fourth with 130.

Goodhue Supt. Robert Bangtson said 382 voters cast ballots in the race, which he said "seems like a nice turnout."