School levy passes by 401 votes

November 12, 2007

By Kristen Miller
Staff Writer

After enduring more than $1 million in cuts over the past four years, school employees and many district citizens are breathing a sigh of relief.

Fifty-six percent of local tax payers who voted last Tuesday approved an operating levy referendum in support of the Dassel Cokato School District. See graph

District taxpayers will see some relief next year when the middle school bond is paid off.

The average home in the DC area with a $150,000 market value can expect approximately $50 off their taxes depending on changes in market value, according to Superintendent Jeff Powers.

With 3,387 Dassel-Cokato residents coming out to vote, this election received a higher turnout of voters than in past years, especially for a special election, according to Powers.

“It was a great turnout. It is definitely the highest response we’ve had in an off year, and one of the highest responses we’ve ever had,” Powers said.

The atmosphere at the schools the morning after the election was positive, Powers said.

“There were a lot of smiles. I think people are relieved,” Powers said.

Dassel-Cokato Education Association president and high school math teacher Sara Nelson described the post-election atmosphere at the schools as being one of gratitude and relief.

“We are thrilled and relieved we won’t have to consider any more cuts. We are also excited we can look forward to expanding and reinstating programs,” Nelson said.

The teachers also feel a great amount of responsibility to be good stewards with what the community has entrusted to them, according to Nelson.

During a Wednesday faculty meeting, discussion centered around what’s been cut, what needs to be reinstated, and how teachers can do what’s best for kids at DC, Nelson said.

High School Principal Dean Jennissen is excited about the new opportunities this will create for the students at DC.

“We need to be good stewards of these resources and this confidence,” Jennissen said.

“These are exciting times for our schools,” he added.

Powers is expecting the school board members to discuss the specific use of the levy funds beginning with the Nov. 29 board meeting.

Figures from the Minnesota School Board Association show 67.6 percent of the school districts asking for an operating levy passed at least one of the questions on the ballot.

Area school districts that failed include Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted, Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City, and Buffalo-Hanover-Montrose. Those that passed include Glencoe-Silver Lake, and Delano.

“The results still point out the state funding system for education is broken,” Powers said.

“It needs to be looked at carefully and revised,” Powers added.

“I am very pleased with the voter turnout, very pleased with the results, and I greatly appreciate the trust the community is placing in us,” Powers said.

The district’s principals were also relieved with the levy results and said that they understand the faith the community is giving them.

Gary Johnson, middle school principal, appreciates those who are in support of the district.

“I am extremely grateful to the citizens of Dassel and Cokato for recognizing the fact that local financial support of schools is now a necessity for the provision of quality education. They have demonstrated to our students that education is highly valued in these two communities,” Johnson said.

He is hoping through this levy, the district will see an increase in course offerings, an exploration of new and better technology, and lower class sizes throughout the district.

“This investment needs to eventually be evident in the enhanced capabilities of DC graduates,” he said.