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Residents vote down Menahga School levy

Long lines filled the polling place all day Tuesday, resulting in a 1,075 voter turn out. The 2000 referendum didn't attract quite as many voters; 874 ballots were cast. (Riham Feshir / Enterprise)

Menahga School superintendent Mary Klamm said she's disappointed with Tuesday's election results.

About 56 percent of the voters said "no" to an $8.5 million referendum that would have expanded the school, to accommodate for a growing student population.

Out of 1,075 voters, the referendum failed 609 to 466.

Bob and Mary Hanninen were two of the majority who didn't support the levy, and said they didn't want their property taxes to increase.

"You don't need more money for better education," Mary Hanninen said.

But the bond was proposed for building and material costs, Klamm said, to improve the quality of education.

The proposed project included amenities - such as the activity center with a three-station gymnasium - that may have discouraged voters, said school board member Jody Bjornson.

"We may have to look at talking to the community and see why they voted against it," he said. "Maybe there is a way to trim down."

He expects a future referendum with a smaller tax impact could be more persuasive.

"It's too early to say what we're going to do now," he said. "We've got some hard decisions to make."

Because of the district's increasing enrollments, in 2000, a $6.7 million building project was proposed and failed by about 62 percent - 547 to 327 votes.

Although projected enrollments will continue to increase in the next five years with just local children, Klamm said she's concerned about losing more students when capping open enrollment becomes the only option to solve the space issues.

"We don't have any room for additional kids at the school," she said.

Each time the district loses a student, about $7,000 in operating funds is also lost.

"We start losing open enrollment then we won't have enough funds to operate," Klamm said.

But at least for the next five years, the board doesn't expect proposing an operating referendum, Bjornson said.

The district's current financial situation is steady, but the lack of space is concerning.

"The need has not changed," Klamm said. "The election results were very disappointing, but we'll move forward."