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Paynesville Press - November 14, 2001

School levy referendum fails

By Michael Jacobson

Line for voting The largest turnout for a school election in District #741 in more than a decade resulted in the rejection of an excess levy proposal and the election of four members to the school board last week.

In all, 1,577 voters cast ballots on Tuesday, Nov. 6, which is the most in a school election since 1990 and the most ever in a school board election.

The proposed $315 per pupil levy was defeated by nearly 200 votes: 687-886. The levy would have been applied to property taxes in 2002 and would have provided the school district with an additional $475,000 for the 2002-03 school year, with over half coming from the state.

Four members were elected to four-year terms on the school board starting in January: Mark Dingmann, incumbent Deb Glenz, Tami Reutzel Stanger, and Allen Schmidt. A field of nine candidates ran for the four four-year terms on the school board.

Election numbers The last school election to have a larger turnout was the bond referendum for the new middle school in 1990, which drew 1,919 voters. The middle school addition and elementary school renovation was passed 1,127-779. A previous proposal for a new middle school - in 1987 - failed in a vote of more than 2,000 voters. Previous voter turnouts

Last week's election combined a levy referendum with a school board election for the first time, which led to the largest turnout for a board election in school history. Referen-dums - on levies or bonds - have traditionally attracted more voters than just board elections.

Lines of voters waited for short periods of time throughout the day at the polling site in the west lobby of the elementary school. The district had to photocopy extra ballots to meet the demand from voters.

The counting of votes took over three hours after the polls closed at 8 p.m. This delayed the start of the special school board meeting to canvas the results on Tuesday night from a 10 p.m. starting time to 11:25 p.m. The meeting only lasted six minutes.

Levy referendums The largest turnout for a board election in the past was in 1988, when 1,319 voters elected three board members from a field of seven candidates. The previous high was in 1982 when 995 voters picked three board members, with seven running, again.

The nine candidates in the field this year was the largest since 1981, when 11 candidates ran for two spots on the board. That election drew 862 voters.

This year's turnout was more than four times the turnout for the last school board election: 350 in November 1999.

Still, District #741 has nearly 3,600 registered voters, meaning the voting percentage was only 44 percent. The school board reacted quickly to the defeat of the levy, holding an emergendy meeting on Thursday afternoon to approve holding another referendum on the same levy proposal in December. Another levy, though, was denied by the state on Friday, meaning more major school budget cuts now loom.

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