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Stillwater School Board Retreat: Discussing The Levy Election

Stillwater School Board held their retreat Friday to discuss the levy results

The Stillwater Area School Board sat down together Friday at Arcola Mills to discuss the levy election results and how they will move forward.

What they could have done differently?

The board discussed what they could have done differently to have the levy questions pass.

“I thought was too much, that is what sinked us,” School Board member George Hoeppner said.

School Board Chairman George Dierberger stated he thought they were asking “a lot” after looking at the ballot and it would seem a lot to the average voter.

Why the questions failed

The board discussed reasons why they thought the questions failed.

Superintendent Corey Lunn stated he thought affected the voter’s decision.

“I think the ECFC thing hurt us,” Lunn said.

Lunn has received emails from residents stating they were unhappy with the recently approved .

“Some thought any increase was unacceptable,” Lunn said.

Dierberger stated the questions passed in Woodbury, but there was a low voter turnout in Woodbury compared to Stillwater.

“If one parent for each student in the district would have voted yes, it would have been a landslide,” Lunn said.

Lessons Learned

The board agreed they should have started campaigning for the levy questions earlier giving them more to reach voters.

“There wasn’t a sense of urgency,” Board member Mike Ptacek said.

Lunn stated they needed more time to have the cuts identified to cause a sense of urgency.

Lunn added, it was a hard message to get across to voters that the school district needed more money but were going to make cuts despite the passage of the levy.

Next Steps

“We shouldn’t make decisions right now, we need to get input,” Lunn said.

Lunn suggested developing focus groups and having a system to get feedback from the community on what should be cut from the budget.

The board hopes to have budget cut decisions done by March 8, 2012 while trying to protect the classroom.

“We gotta protect the classroom,” School Board Chairman George Dierberger said.

The next step in the budget adjustment process is the first meeting of the Budget Adjustment Advisory Committee.

The first meeting will be on Tuesday, Nov. 15 at 6:30 pm. The meeting is open to the public.

Randy Marsh November 12, 2011 at 06:41 PM
The bigger problem is these cuts you are all talking about needed to start two or three years ago when you knew this day was coming. Instead of trimming the fat two years ago you just decided to spend the fund balance down to nothing as though it your daddy's credit card and additional money would somehow just appear when you were done. It was totally irresponsible to make no adjustments when depleting the fund balance and now look where you are. These soft wage freezes for teachers and administrators (can you please just stop insulting us all and admit that they're all still receiving more money/benefits) should have started with previous contracts. Another suggestion, come out as a board and say that you have given up on the idea of moving ninth graders to the high school. Just when people start to get over the 1 to 1 laptop fiasco you can't help but outdo yourselves with even worse ideas.
Markus November 13, 2011 at 02:57 AM
Reading between the lines here's how I read this. "How can we manipulate the electorate in order for them to finally give us what we want?" The board agreed they should have started "campaigning" earlier. This has always stuck in my craw. You take my money and spend it to lobby me and my neighbors for more. Seems unethical. "Dierberger stated the questions passed in Woodbury, but there was a low voter turnout in Woodbury compared to Stillwater." That statement is somewhat telling. Even though the school districts say they don't hold these referendums in off years to take advantage of low voter turnout, there is a Minnesota Department of Education study that said referendums held during odd-year elections pass at a rate of more than 70 percent. That percentage falls to 52 percent in even-year elections. So I'm not convinced the tactic isn't intentional. There was an active email campaign here to vote no on our levy questions. That and a lot of editorializing made more people aware of the referendum and they came out and voted. Add to that most people have not had a raise in a while and while the school employees get one, it is tantamount to a pay cut for the taxpayer.
mark anderson November 17, 2011 at 03:18 PM
Perhaps this input will help. A big part of the problem is that the Board doesn't understand "no". Immediately after the vote you "retreat" to analyze "what went wrong" and "how can we bring this forward and win next time." You're missing the point. The voters want you to live within your means. We don't want you to waste time or money getting ready for "next time" as if your only mission in life is to get another strategy in place to get more tax money. The whole idea is that we don't want you to have any more. Not now, not next time. I will campaign against any more money until you trim District budgets and freeze wages and benefits. Want to know why Scott Walker was elected in Wisconsin? Because public employees were disappointed with contractual wage increases at a time when 60% of Wisconsin voters had not received an increase in their private sector wages for one year or more. My company had to go to a contributory insurance plan years ago - I now pay about half my insurance costs. Teachers don't. District Superintendents don't. My wife's company hasn't been able to raise salaries for three years. Try that out on the MEA. And you wonder about "no".

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