At a regularly scheduled board meeting last Thursday evening, members of the Sleepy Eye Public School Board briefly discussed the results of the operating levy referendum put to voters on election day.
With a vote of 1,161 for the referendum to 1,486 opposed, residents of Sleepy Eye turned down the referendum asking for a $500 per pupil unit levy for five years that would have generated $274,309 per year.
Superintendent John Cselovszki said while the results were not what the board had hoped for voter turn-out for this election was impressive. The board remains optimistic since the gap between those who voted for it and those opposing was closer than in previous referendum votes.
“The board and I were pleased with the results,” Cselovszki said. “The board’s job is to look ahead and see the need and I think people are beginning to see that too.”
In 2011 the school board asked voters for $750 per pupil unit that would have generated $467,037 per year with an additional levy contingent on the passage of the operating levy that would generate $156,148 per year for technology improvements.
Out of 1,204 voters in 2011, only 459 voted for the referendum while an overwhelming 759 voted against it.
Sleepy Eye Public School is one of only few districts still operating without a levy referendum. Expenses continue to rise while education funding continues to decline.
District 84 has lost over $850,000 in valuable essential programs in the past three years and several positions and programs have been reduced in an effort to stay conservative.
Those reductions include eliminating an elementary principal (a role Cselovszki stepped into as well as being superintendent), several elementary positions, two full-time high school positions, an elementary social worker and ELL teacher, office support staff and a library assistant.
Programs that were reduced included C squad and junior high athletic positions, staff development opportunities, FFA, art, business, family and consumer sciences and music electives as well as reductions to counseling and athletic director time.
In addition, education funding continues to fail to keep up with total personal income, falling 17 percent in the past 17 years according to a data analysis from the Minnesota Department of Education. In many cases districts across the state have had to make a dramatic program reductions.
Cselovszki said next year the board will hold a special election to ask for the same amount.
“We are appreciative of all the people who came out to vote,” Cselovszki said. “We will continue to run in a balanced approach as we have in the past. We are not cutting anymore programs, but we have some work to do.”
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In other news, the board approved:
- a donation of $1,000 from the Lions Club toward Biztown transportation for both St. Mary’s and SEPS and a $4,060.12 donation from the Sleepy Eye Basketball boosters for various basketball programs.
- snow removal quotes with S&J Construction and Masonry for the 2012-13 school year.
- the 2011-12 audit.
- the hire of Sarah Griebel, Ashley Hawker and Deb Reinarts for Targeted Services program.