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Fillmore County Schools pass referendums

Fri, Nov 11th, 2011
Posted in Education

Two schools in Fillmore County, Mabel-Canton and Chatfield, had questions on the election ballot November 8 about referendums. They left it up to the voters to decide the fate of their financial future, and the voters were considerate enough to help them out.

Chatfield Superintendent Ed Harris said there were two questions on the ballot. The first was to renew the existing referendum amount of $352.77 per pupil unit, and the second was to add an additional $250 per pupil unit. Public meetings were held on October 10 and 17, with only a few people attending.

"The current levy was about to expire," said Harris. "If that was to expire and nothing was approved to replace it, we were looking at being bankrupt for four years, unless we cut a lot of teachers and staff."

Harris explained the district's expenditures far exceed revenues, and they have made some pretty significant cuts already. "The next round of cuts wasn't going to be anything that wouldn't hurt the kids and their classes," said Harris.

Many schools in the area are in the same situation, with inflation continuing to rise and revenue from the state shrinking or remaining the same. There are few who do not have an operating referendum just to keep their school running and budget balanced.

The referendum in Chatfield passed with 866 voting yes on question number one, and 410 voting no. Question two had 649 yes votes and 630 no.

The vote in Mabel-Canton wasn't nearly as close, with 345 voting yes for the referendum and only 45 voting no. Superintendent Mike Moriarty explained the ballot question was to renew the existing referendum another ten years, which is $1,207.96 per pupil unit.

"It's basically to keep the school running," said Moriarty. "To maintain the current level of curriculum offerings in the elementary and high school, for textbooks and equipment, and to maintain the building."

Moriarty said declining enrollment is one reason revenue has decreased, but that number seems to be leveling off. Still, funding from the state is always uncertain. According to Moriarty, the current referendum has been in place for six years now, and to take that money away would be detrimental.

"You don't continue to operate the same after that," he said. "We would be cutting quite a percentage of the staff."

Administration at both of these schools are relieved and appreciative of the support from their communities.

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