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'More Than Nothing'

Empty-handed after the Perham-Dent school district's levy referendum failed, there are a number of ideas that have surfaced to bring at least some operating revenue into the school.

"More Than Nothing" is the theme that Perham businessman Allen Braaten proposed for a fundraising campaign.

The concept is simple. The school asked taxpayers for about $1 million. Instead, the school got nothing when the levy voted failed by a 2-1 margin.

"There was no in between," said Braaten, who owns "The Zone" fitness center in Perham. "There is a huge difference between $1 million and nothing."

The idea is to launch a multi-faceted campaign to encourage school district residents and businesses to contribute voluntarily.

A special account at the banks, rummage sales, donation jars at counters, bake sales--just about any project--would bring in "More Than Nothing."

By one estimate, if each family sacrificed two soda pops a week, the district could raise nearly $200,000.

And, by Braaten's estimation, $200,000 is "better than nothing."

"This would be intended as temporary relief, to eliminate some of the load for this year," said Braaten.

Even those who voted "no" on the levy referendum at the Nov. 4 election might donate to a voluntary program. Many of the opponents publicly acknowledged that they were willing to financially support the Perham-Dent schools--but they felt the approximate $1 million per year was too much. Further, they believed the 10-year span of the increased levy was too long.

These "no" voters may feel an obligation to contribute, said Braaten.

Jo Strege, director of the 549 Family Foundation will meet with Braaten, school board member Jim Rieber, and others to explore further the possibilities of the "More Than Nothing" concept.

The 549 Family Foundation is the likely fiscal agent for the campaign. The 549 Foundation is a non-profit organization that provides donations to help fund activities and programs at the Perham-Dent schools.