Both District 197 referendum questions fail


District 197 Superintendent Nancy Allen-Mastro presented information April 22 on why the schools were asking for additional funding, a request voters rejected May 6. The school board voted unanimously in February to put the two questions on the ballot in a special election. (Kaitlyn Roby/Review)

District 197 voters recently struck down a two-part referendum aimed at increasing technology funding and upgrading facilities at West St. Paul-Mendota Heights-Eagan Area Schools.

The two questions that failed on the May 6 ballot asked voters to:

• Renew and increase the school district’s designated technology tax levy to $1.7 million annually for 10 years, as the current $490,000 annual levy is set to expire in 2014.

• Establish an $11.2 million building bond for an early-learning center and security upgrades.

The technology levy failed in the special election, where only 47 percent of voters were in favor of it. Fifty-three percent of voters rejected it.

The building bond was squelched, too, as only 46 percent of voters said “yes” and 54 percent “no.”

Now what?

According to information from the district, the failure of the first questions means it will lose $490,000 in current levy funding, and that there will be more delays in upgrading computers and other devices. The “defeat” could also hinder curriculum meant to boost students’ “21st-century technology skills.”

The building bond would have solved some overcrowding issues with a new early learning center for $7.5 million. Infant to 5-year-old programming is currently held in the elementary schools, which are projected to experience significant growth in enrollment. Another $3.2 million would have helped upgrade security districtwide by expanding lock-down buttons, adding security cameras and creating secure school entrances.

“I’m disappointed,” Julie Weisbecker, a Mendota Heights resident, told the Review. “The district will need to go back to the drawing board and figure out what steps to take next. I know the early childhood program has had to move constantly; it would have been nice to have a permanent place for it.”

‘Surprising’ results

Superintendent Nancy Allen-Maestro said she didn’t see this coming.

“The results are very surprising,” she said in a statement. “Our research indicated strong public support of both questions.”

Losing the $11.2 million building bond, as well as the renewal and bump in technology funding, could mean some tough decisions ahead. 

“What we will do next is a post-election analysis to see what we can learn from this outcome,” Allen-Mastro said.

With what the district describes as a “defeat” the school board and administration will soon meet to discuss their next move.

Tim Faklis can be reached at 651-748-7814 or at tfaklis@lillienews.com.

 

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