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Brainerd School District referendum questions pass

Brainerd School Superintendent Steve Razidlo smiled as the votes rolled in Tuesd

Brainerd School District voters headed to the polls Nov. 8 and voted “Yes, Yes.”

Voters approved the first operating levy question, which asked for a renewal of $199.24 per pupil, with 7,036 yes votes, or 70.57 percent, to 2,934, or 29.42 percent.

Voters also approved the second levy question, which asked for an additional $200 per pupil, with 5,371 yes votes, or 53.92 percent, and 4,589 no votes, or 46.07 percent.

There were 506 absentee ballots cast.

This was in contrast to the 2007 district referendum, which failed to pass by a two-to-one margin.

Steve Lund, director of business services for the district, said the district will still need to make some budget cuts, even with the passage of a total $399 per pupil levy, but those cuts won’t have to be as large if both questions had failed. The district was facing a $4 million deficit by 2012-13. With the passage of both questions, the board still will need to make about $500,000 in budget reductions or deficit spend using its unreserved fund balance.

“Our work isn’t done,” Lund said after learning voters approved the questions Nov. 8. “We can now trim around the edges with a scalpel instead of hacking away with a hatchet.”

More than a third of school districts in the state asked voters for more funds on Nov. 8, the highest number since at least 2001. The Minnesota Department of Education reported that as state per-pupil funding has failed to keep up with inflation since 2003, schools have become more reliant on local taxpayers. It didn’t help that lawmakers last summer decided to help fill a $5 billion budget deficit by delaying aid payments of about $2 billion in education money to school districts.

Voters in the Pine River-Backus School District also passed both referendum questions Nov. 8. The first question, for a building bond, passed with 625 yes votes to 315 no votes. The second question to renew a $1 levy passed with 706 yes votes and 232 no votes.

JODIE TWEED may be reached at or 855-5858.