Voters finally give nod to Perham school levy

/ 3 April 2012 / jennifer

Marie Marie Nitke, East Otter Tail Focus, April 3, 2012 –

After struggling for the last few years to get a levy referendum passed, the Perham-Dent School District finally claimed a victory Tuesday night.

Voters approved a $2.2 million Capital Projects Referendum, spread out over five years, in a special election. It was the district’s fifth levy attempt in five years.

Turnout at the polls was strong for an April election, with more than 2,700 people participating. Of those, 1,535 voted in favor of the referendum, 1,208 against – a difference of 327, according to unofficial results reported shortly after the polls closed.

School board members, administrators and some city officials present at the close of the polls in Perham responded to the news with sighs of relief, big smiles and utterances of words like, “Finally, some good news.”

“I’m ecstatic,” said Superintendent Mitch Anderson. “I’m excited that we can take care of some of the immediate needs of our district – buildings and grounds maintenance and things – and upgrade our technology. After all the cuts (in recent years)… it’s well needed. Our kids deserve it.”

Breaking down the tallies from the different precincts, it’s clear that the strongest support came from within Perham city limits, as the majority of voters in outlying areas were against it.

Unofficial results were as follows:

-Perham: 1,079 for, 599 against

-Ottertail: 83 for, 123 against

-Dent: 300 for, 402 against

-Absentee: 73 for, 84 against

Anderson said he thought the district’s success this time around was most likely due to the transparency of the process. A lot of people told him they wanted to know exactly what the levy funds would be used for, he said, and with this kind of levy (unlike the Operating Levies the district has tried for in the past), it’s both possible and necessary to do that.

The lesser amount coming out of individual taxpayer pocketbooks probably helped, too, Anderson said, judging from public feedback he’s gotten.

Property owners will pay significantly less with this levy than they would have under the levy that failed last November. The cost to the average homeowner ($150,000 home) will be about $2.67 a month.