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In wake of referendum defeat, Blue Earth Area seeks solutions

BLUE EARTH — The Blue Earth Area School Board met Thursday for the first time since an operating levy referendum was narrowly defeated by voters on Nov. 5.

The measure was voted down, 756-721, a difference of 35 votes.

Had it passed, it would have brought in an additional $900 per pupil to the district. This would have given Blue Earth Area another $900,000 annually in revenue.

Prior to the vote, district officials estimated that if the proposal did not pass, Blue Earth Area would have to make more than $1 million in budget cuts from a $16 million budget.

On Thursday, the board discussed what to do next.

Superintendent Mandy Fletcher said there is an opportunity to put the issue in front of voters again in February, April or May.

“But that would be done by a mail ballot and it is complicated to administer,” she noted.

Other options for holding another referendum include waiting until the primary election in August or until the general election in November 2020.

“My thought is we take some time to process and move forward methodically,” said board chairwoman Susan Benz. “I do not want to rush into things.”

Fletcher reminded the board that only one operating levy vote can be held per year.

“Even if we pass a referendum next year, the revenue will not be available until the 2021-2022 tax year,” she said.

Fletcher outlined the steps that the administration will take going forward.

“I will be working with department heads to see how we might be able to make cuts in the budget,” she said. “We will also look at ways of restructuring to save dollars.”

In other business, newly elected board member Jeff Eckles was sworn in. Eckles was elected to fill out the term of Jeremy Coxworth, who resigned earlier this year.

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