School districts fare well in levy renewals

Published 7:26 am Wednesday, November 9, 2011

MCT Information Services

Across the metro, voters gave an emphatic yes to school districts asking them to extend current levels of funding, but tended to balk at kicking in more.

The Anoka-Hennepin School District, the state’s largest, offered a prime example. The district asked voters to renew a $48 million-a-year levy for 10 years, warning of dire consequences if it failed, and the request passed comfortably. A second proposal — for $30 million over 10 years for technology funding — appeared to pass by the narrowest of margins, while a third, for additional per-pupil money, was rejected.

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In all, more than 120 districts across Minnesota held referendums Tuesday. Some sought money to update technology or build new facilities, but about half asked voters to renew existing operating levies, money that pays for teachers and covers other classroom expenses.

In addition to Anoka-Hennepin, operating levy renewals also passed in Buffalo, Edina, Forest Lake, Inver Grove Heights, Orono, Princeton and Spring Lake Park, among others.

The Delano Public Schools, which sought to more than double a levy that will expire in the spring of 2013, fell short. The district may go back to voters next year, but it must also plan for about $800,000 in possible cuts, said Superintendent John Sweet.

Stillwater sought to increase its annual operating levy, and also proposed a technology levy and a land acquisition bond. All three requests were voted down.

In a statement, Stillwater School Superintendent Corey Lunn said: “I have no doubt our community values education. I recognize that for many voters the decision simply came down to economics. Voters provided us with a clear message — as a school district we must find ways to do more with less, become more efficient and change the way we do business.”

He added that the district’s needs will not go away, and that he will seek help from the community to make cuts as needed.

The success of the renewal requests suggest that voters understand the importance of funding their schools, said Gary Amoroso, executive director of the Minnesota Association of School Administrators.