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MCC, RRC, Ellsworth pass referendums

WORTHINGTON -- Voters approved referendums Tuesday in all three southwest Minnesota school districts that sought funding, though one district -- Red Rock Central -- passed its referendum by a more narrow margin than the others.

In the RRC district, a proposal to revoke the existing $950 per-student referendum and replace it with a $1,450 per-student referendum was approved by 53 percent of voters. The revoked referendum would have expired in two years.

"I am walking around smiling this whole day. I am so happy for the kids," RRC Superintendent John Brennan said. "We are so pleased with the taxpayers helping us do this."

With a total of 1,452 votes cast, fewer than 100 votes separated the no votes (686) from the yes votes (766).

"We did know we were going to be very close," Brennan admitted, saying the communities encompassed by the 344-square-mile district have sewer and street improvement projects also vying for their tax dollars.

"The board and I ... didn't see too many options down the road as far as state funding, federal funding," he added.

After lawmakers shifted $1.4 billion in education funding away from schools to fill a hole in the current budget, 76 Minnesota school districts went to their voters for permission to raise their property taxes. About half of those districts passed their referendums.

The RRC referendum also represented the largest per-pupil increase of the three area referendums, with $500 more per pupil to be collected from taxpayers during the next 10 years.

Referendums in Ellsworth and Murray County Central districts received a stronger showing of support, with two-thirds of voters approving the measure in both districts.

In the MCC district, 1,285 people registered a yes vote and 675 a no vote for the measure, which will revoke two existing referendums of $831 and $450 per pupil and authorize one new referendum of $1,281 -- the same as the district's current revenue stream.

"I'm just thankful that the residents took the time to get educated on just what the referendum meant to the school district," said Superintendent Summer Pankonen. "The majority vote spoke volumes as to how much support the district gives us ".

"We're thankful they chose to continue to have that revenue come into the district to continue to educate students in the way that we've been doing. Our community voted in favor of keeping things the way they are at MCC."

More than 67 percent of Ellsworth district voters also approved a proposal to revoke the existing referendum of $982 per student and authorize a new referendum of $1,332 per student. A total of 335 votes were cast.

"It shows that people want to keep the school," Superintendent George Berndt said. "Whenever we have fundraisers or anything else, people in this community are very supportive. But with the economy the way it is, and you ask people for more money it gets tougher and tougher every time."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.