School referedum passes in Brandon district, fails in WCA
ALEXANDRIA - Voters in Brandon approved two school referendum measures Tuesday. It was another story in the West Central Area Schools District where voters narrowly rejected a tax increase for additional funding. School leaders there say they'll ...
ALEXANDRIA - Voters in Brandon approved two school referendum measures Tuesday.
It was another story in the West Central Area Schools District where voters narrowly rejected a tax increase for additional funding. School leaders there say they'll regroup, trim expenses even further and likely pursue a referendum next year.
Brandon voters approve two referendum questions
In Brandon, voters approved Question 1 on the ballot by a two-to-one margin - 238 "yes" votes to 95 "no" votes.
The measure authorizes the district to renew its existing referendum of $500 per pupil for six more years. That referendum, which generated $136,947 for the district in 2008-2009, had been scheduled to expire this year.
The results were much closer for Question 2, which calls for additional funding of $200 per pupil, or about $55,000 per year for six years.
The measure squeaked through with 174 "yes" votes against 157 "no" votes, a margin of 5 percent.
Brandon school leaders were smiling Wednesday.
"We're pretty darned pleased," said Superintendent Mark Westby when contacted by the Echo Press Wednesday. "The board put a lot of time and energy into how much to go after. Considering the economy right now, it's tough to go out and ask people to pay more in taxes but the people in this community have always been supportive."
The approval of Question 1 saves the district from making more reductions and Question 2's additional funding should put the district's finances back in the black, Westby said.
"We should have a break-even budget moving forward," he said. "We'll still watch our dollars and cents and make good decisions with the taxpayers' money."
The election itself went smoothly in Brandon, Westby noted, adding that school officials were pleased that 334 people came out to vote.
West Central Area mulls its options
Voters in the West Central Area Schools District, which includes the Kensington area in Douglas County, rejected a "revoke and renew" referendum. The final result was 571 "no" votes to 497 "yes" votes.
The measure would have revoked the district's existing referendum of $950 per pupil, which is set to expire in 2011, and replaced it with a new funding authorization of $1,250, which would have applied for the next 10 years. It would have generated additional revenue of $250,000 per year.
For school leaders, losing the referendum by a mere 74 votes was a heartbreaker.
"It was disappointing certainly," said Superintendent Patrick Westby. "But we also knew that the economic climate across the state was going to make it tough, particularly in our district."
Westby pointed out a "very positive" aspect of the election: good voter turnout. "More than a thousand people came out to vote on just one thing on the ballot," he said.
Westby said it was also encouraging to see the support voters throughout the state gave to school districts seeking referendums.
According to the Minnesota School Board Association, 71 percent of the districts that held referendums passed at least one of the questions they put before voters.
"That's impressive given the tough times we all are facing," Westby said.
What's the next step for West Central Area Schools? Right now, district leaders are focusing on moving forward and getting back to work, Westby said.
"We'll need to look at further expenditure reductions for next year and try to put together a long-range financial plan that is palatable to taxpayers," he said, adding that a referendum next year is "very likely" although the board has not yet made a decision.
"We've been very open with the public about that," he said. "We told them that if it didn't pass, we'd tweak our plans and come back again next year."