Going to school on referendums

  • Updated: October 29, 2011 - 8:39 PM

Best luck? Since 1991, Wayzata, Mahtomedi, Barnesville and the Balaton School District are six-for-six. But tiny Cyrus is king, passing seven referendums in a row, including a 73-8 vote two years ago for a $250-per-pupil hike.

Worst luck? If you guessed Brooklyn Center, which failed for the 10th consecutive time to pass a referendum Sept. 20, you'd be close. But North Branch, 50 miles up I-35, has lost 11 in a row, including three questions on the ballot last year that received nearly twice as many "no" votes as "yes" votes. They'll try again for a $350-per-pupil increase Nov. 8.

Closest votes? Three times in the past 20 years, it's come down to five votes. Elk River lost a referendum 4,716 to 4,711 in 2003. Lakeville won one 7,424 to 7,419 in '98. And Winona lost in a double recount in 2001.

Most lopsided? Ellsworth passed a 2005 referendum with 96 percent (352-16) in favor, while five years ago in the East Central school district, serving Sandstone, Askov, Bruno and Kerrick, 80 percent (742-178) voted "no."

Is this a record year? Nope. The 171 ballot questions for 125 districts is the most since 2001, when 197 districts posed 207 operating levy ballot questions. Two-thirds of them passed.

Most modest request? A trio of districts up north -- Proctor, Hermantown and Pine River-Backus -- are asking voters for a $1-per-student levy. One buck? Yep. It has to do with equity revenue in which the state funnels extra funds to districts with tiny levies.

Biggest? Anoka-Hennepin, the state's largest district, is asking for $1,304 per pupil - plus technology improvements and threatening to lay off 500 teachers and close schools if the referendums fail. Two tiny districts, Badger and Stephen-Argyle, want $2,000 per student, but they're revoking $1,500 and $1,000, respectively, of taxing authority to lower their net grab. So Climax wins, seeking $1,931 per student.

Compiled by staff writer Curt Brown with figures from the Minnesota Department of Education

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