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Perham-Dent third attempt at school levy fails; NY Mills levy passes

The third time apparently wasn't a charm for the Perham-Dent Public School District's attempt at a levy referendum.

On Nov. 2, Perham-Dent Public School District voters did not approve a $595 per student levy, according to unofficial results.

A difference of 525 votes separated the 2,825 "no" to 2,300 "yes" votes.

In New York Mills, a $425 per pupil levy was approved by a margin of 62 votes. These funds will be used to maintain and keep current programs, electives, college classes, activities, and staffing.

The second question in NY Mills, which failed by 92 votes, proposed to add $75 per student for technology.

Perham also has two new school board members, pending official results. Sue Huebsch and Myron Roe will fill the spots of Dave Schornack, who came in last at the polls, and Ron Berns who did not run. Huebsch and Roe will join Mike Hamann and Jim Rieber, who were re-elected, and Cyndy Huber, Sue VonRuden and Arnie Thompson, whose terms expire in 2012.

In Perham, a five-year, three-part question was presented to voters. The first part asked for $595 per pupil to be spent on smaller class sizes for students in kindergarten through twelfth grade. The first part must have passed for the second and third parts to pass. The second part asked for $195 per student, which will be spent to buy teaching supplies such as textbooks and computers. The third part asked for $195 per student for building maintenance and repairing leaking roofs.

Many community members, businesses and school officials pushed hard for the levy ever since last year's question was narrowly defeated.

Last year, Perham school district voters defeated the levy referendum by a narrow margin of 1,746 votes to 1,622 votes. The measure would have injected revenues of about $500,000 a year into the school's budget - barely enough money to keep the district in the black for the next three years.

According to the school's website, the largest computer lab has 30 computers, and "consistently there are more students than there are working computers."

Rising class sizes are up because of staff cuts to contain costs, according to school staff.

Also according to the school's website, if the levy did not pass, reductions will continue. Past reductions included cuts to music, foreign language, vocational core, college prep and college credit classes.

What is scaring school officials and many in the business community is additional cuts from the state now that the levy did not pass. Schools are funded by the state, and since 2003, Minnesota Public Schools have received a 13 percent decrease in funding, according to the school's website.

The district currently has a $26.30 per pupil levy in place. That is compared with $200 in New York Mills, $416 in Fergus Falls, $457 in Detroit Lakes, $600 in Park Rapids, $800 in Wadena-Deer Creek, $1,000 in Frazee and $2,250 in Rothsay.

In 2009, the average Minnesota school levy raised $1028 per pupil. If no levy is in place, the district would lose additional funding in terms of equity aid which currently is $120,000, according to the school's website.