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Voters in the Anoka-Hennepin School District renewed a
referendum levy Nov. 3 to provide approximately $8 million in general operating
funds each year for eight years. Unofficial election results indicate the levy
passed with 58.6 percent of the votes, 17,590 to 12,389.
"We are thankful in this hard economic time that the public
supports the schools," said School Board Chair Tom Heidemann. "We are going to
do the best we can to spend our money wisely and effectively and provide the
best education we can for our students."
Superintendent Dennis Carlson was surprised at the wide
margin of victory. He had expected a close vote, not only because the area has
been hard hit by home foreclosures and unemployment, but also because the
district has upset a number of families by recent announcements of school
closings and attendance boundary changes for next year.
"This is a very strong
show of support in a particularly tough time. We have hard working families who
truly value education for the children of these communities. It's a victory for
our students," he said.
Carlson explained that the referendum levy is a crucial
piece of the district's funding, "especially now when education is getting no
funding increase from the state this year or next."
The renewed levy will provide $165 per student, an increase
of $33 over the expired levy. After the first year, it will increase each year
with inflation at a level set by the state.
The levy dollars will be used to retain teachers and thus
maintain current class size at all grade levels as well as specialist teachers
for elementary art, music and physical education, plus staffing for career and
technical programs for high students. In addition, high school activities will remain
in place and fees will remain at current levels. Also, there will be no need to
close an additional school next year.
Passage of the levy does not eliminate the district's
financial challenges, however. Even with passage of the levy, the district still
faces an estimated $18 million budget deficit resulting from lack of a state
funding increase to offset inflation and loss of revenue due to declining
To close the $18 million budget gap, the School Board
approved a plan in September that will close eight schools next year to save approximately
$3 million and eliminate excess space resulting from declining enrollment. In
addition, the district changed the high school schedule to a model that reduces
staffing costs by $1.2 million.
The board hopes to reduce the deficit further by negotiating
contracts with staff at less than budgeted. Thus far, the superintendent,
central administrators and child nutrition staff have agreed to a salary freeze
and the board took a cut in its monthly stipend.
The renewed levy will be on next year's tax statements to
help fund the 2010-11 school year.
to view election results (from Anoka County Web site).