Voters clear: No goPublished 10:57am Wednesday, April 3, 2013
Frustration filled the room of waiting teachers, coaches and supporters at the Otter Tail County offices as the last polling station reported their results Tuesday night. Disappointed breaths were let out as the final outcome, 2,107 (55.35) no to 1,700 (44.65) yes, came in, with a total of 3,807 votes cast.
But with the same results now five months after the first referendum for updating and consolidating the school district’s outdoor facilities, voters have made their decision clear. After emotions settled, the room of educators and supporters understood that fact and what it means for the district’s future.
“You always have to be optimistic. Good things will come,” said school board chair Melanie Cole. “We advocate for kids, so we’re going to keep asking the community to make education a priority.”
While Cole was certainly hoping for a different outcome, she said voters’ wishes must be respected and the job of the school board now will be to work with residents to fix outdated facilities like the football bleacher system.
“It’s a project that still needs doing,” said Cole. “We’re going to continue communicating with the public and see if there is anything that needs adjustment with the plan.”
Because this specific proposal cannot be put forth by the board again this calendar year, there will be a significant amount of time before the issue can be sent directly to a public vote. Superintendent Jerry Ness said that time will be used to reevaluate what the district has asked for the past two bonds.
“We have time to reassess and I think the community has clearly spoken two times on the same project,” said Ness. “We just need to sit back and take our time, reassess our needs and exactly what needs to be done and how we can work things in our own budget.”
It is too early for the school board and district to tell exactly what factors caused the outcome of Tuesday’s vote, but Cole and Ness both understood the difficulty of asking residents to pay higher taxes, especially in hard economic times.
“It’s clearly the tax,” said Ness. “We know taxes are going up in different areas and times are still difficult. We have to recognize that and come back and address the needs we have and figure out what we can do different.”