Voters approved the Alexandria School District ballot question Tuesday, and district staff could not be happier.
School board members, district staff and residents gathered in the district office conference room at Woodland Elementary School Tuesday night, waiting for the results to be posted on a spreadsheet. By the end of the night, everyone in attendance was clapping and had smiles on their faces. Some hugged each other and others high-fived.
“This really is a huge win for our students and for the community,” Superintendent Julie Critz said. “It’s something that we can celebrate collectively.”
The Alexandria School Board decided in July on sending this ballot question to voters about a voter-approved operating levy, proposing it to be a 10-year, phased-in levy where the amount taxpayers pay increases incrementally over the first three years.
The question passed by a margin of 59.6% to 40.4%. There was a total of 4,159 yes votes and 2,816 no votes, including absentee and early voter ballots. However, results will not be official until they are canvassed by the school board Nov. 13.
With the operating levy funds, the district said it will maintain or reduce class sizes, keep specialist teachers, expand mental health support and maintain or expand work experiences at the middle and high school.
The levy will take effect next school year, for $375 per student. It will rise to $485 per student in the 2021-22 school year and $595 per student for the remainder of the 10-year period, starting in the 2022-23 school year.
Absentee votes mostly in favor
The night started off strong when absentee votes came in, with 1,248 people voting yes and 188 voting no. This 86.9% gave the votes a strong push towards the yes side and they stayed in the positive zone for “yes” the rest of the night as the other votes were tallied.
The majority of precincts were supportive of the levy, but not all. It was opposed in two of the dozen precincts: Precinct 8 (City of Miltona, Miltona and Spruce Hill townships) opposed it 146 to 96, as did Precinct 12 (Holmes City, Lake Mary and Reno townships), where it lost 260 to 192. (For the breakdown by all precincts, see below.)
The total of 6,975 votes represented a 34.3% voter turnout, based on the 20,364 voters registered, according to the office of the Minnesota Secretary of State.
Critz said district staff was surprised to see such a low turnout, and were expecting more than 50% to come out to the polls. However, they are grateful for the people who did.
“Alexandria has historically been very supportive of education,” she said. “We’re proud that they have supported the school district and education once again.”
She thanked the community for its support, and said that the continuous support for education is one of the reasons why people want to live here.
Reaction to vote
When asked for a reaction to the election results, Alexandria School board member Sandy Susag said, “Besides yay?”
“It was a lot of hard work by a lot of people,” she said. “It’s never one person and it just shows and demonstrates the community and its support for the kids around here.”
She recognized the efforts of Critz and the presentations she held during the past several months. Susag also credited the Vote Yes Committee and the phone bank which allowed nearly 3,000 callers to ask questions.
Patrick Kalina, communications committee lead for the Vote Yes Committee, was optimistic that the referendum would pass after reaching out to the public and based on a history of supporting education. He was both excited and relieved when the results came in.
Tim Urness, community outreach chairman for the Vote Yes Committee, said his promotional strategy was to make “yes” an acronym meaning “Your Excellent Schools.”
“I am thrilled for my own three kids who go to school in District 206, as well as every other kid in Douglas County,” Urness said. “I just think it’s a great thing for them.”
He has a daughter who loves art class and another daughter who loves music class, and is pleased that they will be able to continue enjoying those classes. However, it’s not just about them.
“There are many, many more kids that follow after them. I believe that this just keeps our schools in great shape, and moving forward it puts us in a really good position.”
Susag is also most excited for the students who will benefit from the operating levy, because it would have been sad to cut staff, she said. The kids and class sizes would have suffered.
“This town has always supported education and now we have more money to make it even better,” she said. “The school will remain strong.”
Results by precinct
Precinct 1 (City of Alexandria, Ward 1, Precincts 1 and 2): 533 yes, 262 no
Precinct 2 (City of Alexandria, Ward 2): 383 yes, 211 no
Precinct 3 (City of Alexandria, Ward 3): 329 yes, 171 no
Precinct 4 (City of Alexandria, Ward 4): 195 yes, 127 no
Precinct 5 (City of Alexandria, Ward 5, Precincts 1 and 2): 264 yes, 117 no
Precinct 6 (LaGrand Township): 772 yes, 452 no
Precinct 7 (City of Garfield and Brandon, Ida, Leaf Valley and Moe townships): 331 yes, 293 no
Precinct 8 (City of Miltona, Miltona and Spruce Hill townships): 96 yes, 146 no
Precinct 9 (City of Carlos, Belle River and Carlos townships): 392 yes, 343 no
Precinct 10 (City of Nelson, Alexandria and Osakis townships): 539 yes, 287 no
Precinct 11 (City of Forada and Hudson Township): 133 yes, 147 no
Precinct 12 (Holmes City, Lake Mary and Reno townships): 192 yes, 260 no