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Tuesday’s vote as good as it gets

November 10, 2011
Marshall Independent

In a perfect world, schools wouldn't have to ask taxpayers for money. They would function without having to worry about the prospects of cutting programs, laying off teachers or falling behind when it comes to technology because of cash-flow problems. If issues came up with the school building, they'd put some bids out, hire a contractor, cut a check, get it fixed and move on. All their focus could be on the students and only the students in this fairy-tale, financially worry-free, utopian academic society.

Alas, this isn't a perfect world, and school officials today have no other choice than to deal with dwindling dollars on a day-to-day basis. Some politicians are upset that so many schools asked for a referendum this year - the highest number in a decade. Others say schools have no choice but to extend their empty bowls and say to the taxpayers, "More please." We agree with the latter -?what choice do they have?

Schools by and large in Minnesota have become handcuffed - partly because of rising operational costs, partly because of the need to keep up with technology, and partly because those very politicians continue to shift educational dollars around in order to balance ballooning budget deficits. But given today's economy, schools aren't exactly thrilled about having to go to the taxpayers for some additional help every few years, and the Marshall School District should not only be pleased about its referendum passing Tuesday, it should realize Tuesday's outcome was really the best it could've hoped for (although the second referendum question for an additional $150-per-pupil failed in a surprisingly tight vote and could've went either way).

Of the schools looking to renew their current levy, all but one out of 58 saw their request pass. So it's clear communities in this state still care about their schools and want them to maintain already high standards, but as we now know they can only pitch in so much. Multiple-question referenda that would've meant an increase in taxes was where most voters drew the line this year. And that shouldn't surprise school officials.

All school districts need to understand that while there's nothing wrong with going to the voters for referendum extensions - they shouldn't all have to defend themselves in light of the Legislature's recent and unfair K-12 funding shifts - they also shouldn't expect taxpayers to bite the bullet even harder. Our schools still have a lot of work ahead and will continue to face stressful financial burdens until the Legislature decides to start paying the them back. That had better happen soon, because if it doesn't, taxpayers will again be asked to help fill that bowl in the not-so-distant future.



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