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HLWW referendum results
Nov. 8, 2019

Ivan Raconteur

HOWARD LAKE, WAVERLY, WINSTED, MN – Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted School District placed two questions before voters in Tuesday’s referendum, and both failed by a significant margin.

Question 1 asked voters if HLWW should revoke the district’s existing referendum revenue authorization of $70.55 per pupil, and replace it with a new authorization of $320.55 per pupil.

Unofficial results show that Question 1 received 597 “yes” votes (38.79 percent) to 942 “no” votes (61.21 percent).

Question 2 asked if HLWW should adopt a proposed a capital project levy authorization of 2.022 percent times the net tax capacity of the school district. The money raised by this authorization would provide funds for the acquisition, installation and maintenance of technology infrastructure improvements and instructional equipment. The proposed capital project levy authorization would raise approximately $200,000 for taxes payable in 2020, and would be authorized for 10 years. The estimated total cost of the projects to be funded over that time period is approximately $2 million.

Question 2 received 553 “yes” votes (36.03 percent) and 982 “no” votes (63.97 percent).

“While we are disappointed at the results, our plan will be to review the results, ask questions to gain feedback, and plan accordingly,” Superintendent Brad Sellner commented. “The current status of school funding in our state, along with the current status of the district’s budget, are still the same. The school board had a target in mind to address those issues, and so I, at least, do not see anything changing in terms of that need.”

Sellner also addressed what the district could have done differently to possibly get a different outcome.

“In order to determine this, we will need to evaluate things, ask questions, and plan accordingly,” he stated. “There is no doubt that it is a difficult thing for schools anywhere. The fact that cities and counties can do much more in terms of generating revenue through taxes without going to the polls, is frustrating. But, that is the way things work, and so we need to go back to the drawing board and see what we can do differently.”

Sellner noted there can be many reasons people may have voted no, just as there are many reasons for voting yes. He will work on collecting and analyzing those reasons for future planning.

Regarding voter turnout, Sellner noted that, compared to other off-year elections, voter turnout was lower than it has been in the past for an operating levy, but is in line with the last bond election for the middle school building project.

In terms of next steps, the board will meet to canvass the results and then discuss future planning.

“In the short term, we will continue to monitor the budget (our annual audit results will come out in November), but as we have always done, we will continue to spend wisely and keep things moving in the right direction. There will be discussions about possible reductions, ways to raise revenues,” Sellner commented.

He also addressed whether the subject will be brought back to voters.

“My assumption, although it is up to the school board, is that the questions will come back to the voters again next November,” Sellner noted. “The levy will expire, and the $70.55 will run out at the end of the next school year. As I stated earlier, nothing has changed for us as a district when it comes to funding from the state. Those monies that we know we are getting, are part of our budget plan, and so, when your plan shows that your fund balance is shrinking, when you are growing as we are, and would like to add programming, and when you are trying to keep up with the rising costs associated with inflation, you have only a few choices ... seek more revenue or reduce where you can.”

Despite the fact the votes did not go the way the school board and district staff hoped, Sellner said there are some positive things that came out of the process.

“As with any election, there are positive things that can be noticed,” Sellner observed. “You learn more about what people want from their school, you learn more about community involvement and support, and I think we also learn about what it really takes to run a school district. It is a matter of opinion, but I would say that in my time here, I do not feel our school board has ever been out of line with their requests for additional funding. If you look around at some of the things going on in other school districts and what voters have approved in those districts, I feel our board has done a good job of keeping things reasonable.”

Sellner noted the district’s mission has not changed.

“As a district staff and school board, no matter the results, we keep working hard,” Sellner stated. “We keep kids at the forefront of the things we do. We adapt and change to an ever-changing world the best we can for the betterment of our students and our communities. That is our charge, and that is what we will to continue to do.”

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