NEW ULM - With votes counted in 25 out of 25 precincts early Wednesday, voters appeared poised to approve a new local tax levy requested by District 88.
Approximately 56 percent of voters voted for the levy, and approximately 44 percent voted against it, according to preliminary counts.
District 88 sought approval of a ten-year levy of $575 per pupil, which is projected to provide $1.28 million per year for the district.
The district said the additional revenue was needed after several consecutive years of budget cuts, because of very limited increases in state funding in recent years, a shift in the delivery of state funding support, and a modest current and future enrollment decline.
"The voters in the District 88 school district have spoken," said Superintendent Harold Remme, in a statement after the votes were reported. "The results indicate additional school revenues will be available for District 88 in the future. These results are fantastic! On behalf of the students, staff, parents and all the residents of District 88 we say, 'Thank You.' Passage of the referendum was a critical, crucial and positive step in the future of our school and the community."
"These additional funds will allow the school district to reduce class sizes to reasonable levels and restore essential courses needed for the graduates of District 88 to be prepared for post high school training and employment," continued Remme. "The levy referendum results will assist the school district to more fully implement its theme for the year which is, 'Preparing for the Future.'"
YES 5,991 56.26%
NO 4,658 43.74%
"The funds provided by passage of this levy referendum reflect on the importance of education in New Ulm and the communities around New Ulm" added Remme. "Because of this financial support, New Ulm and the surrounding communities will benefit in many ways."
"District 88 remains dedicated to providing the best educational opportunities for the students we serve based on the financial resources available. Newly-elected school board members will have a solid base of financial resources to base decisions on as they assume their duties as school board members in January 2013."
Currently, the district has two local levies in place: $450 per pupil per year renewed in 2010 for 10 years and $300 per pupil, in place until 2017. The combined value of the levies, with an inflation escalator, is $775 per pupil. The median state levy is $1,035 per pupil.
In the run up to the vote, officials sought to reassure the public that school funds are, and would be, managed wisely. They recapped that the district has cut, on average, $860,000 from its budget each year over the last nine years; or a total of about $7 million worth of programs.
The reductions have resulted in class section size increases, elimination of course offerings, delays in textbook purchases, restructuring custodial and clerical staffing duties, reduced bus routes, a three-day furlough of non-union employees, increased activity fees, a fair-share fee costing structure, a main campus parking fee, delayed equipment purchases and an early retirement incentive, said officials.
Class sizes have reached 25-26 children in kindergarten (recommended size is 17-20); 28-29 in third grade (recommended 22-24) and 29-30 in sixth grade (recommended 23-26), said the administration. Some 100 sections at the high school have more than 30 students and at least one as many as 37 students.
The newly-elected school board will decide how to use new funds generated by the levy, said Remme. Possibilities include class size reduction, returning more elective choices to the high school, concentrating on opportunities in science, engineering and math, and integrating technology in all classroom settings.