Osseo School District voters narrowly reject levies, elect 3 board members

Supt. Maguire says the district is already planning for drastic cuts

The Osseo School Board race was tight, and dragged through the night Nov. 6 into the early hours of the next morning. Results from the final of 56 precincts weren’t posted until approximately 3 a.m.

When the numbers came in, voters had narrowly rejected both proposed levies, and only 83 votes separated the school board candidates in third and fourth place. That’s less than a tenth of a percent difference.


Two new faces on the school board

Out of the five candidates on the ballot, voters selected Dean Henke of Maple Grove, Linda Etim of Brooklyn Park and Jacki Girtz of Maple Grove. Robert Gerhart of Maple Grove and Collette Guyott-Hempel of Brooklyn Park didn’t make the cut.

Henke, the only candidate who is a current member of the school board, was safely in first with 24,220 votes, or 23 percent. Etim, a former school board member, sat comfortably in second with 22,886 votes, or 21.7 percent. Girtz clung to third place, with 21,023 votes, or about 20 percent. Gerhart followed closely with 20,940 votes, or 19.9 percent. Guyott-Hempel was at the bottom with 15,426 votes, or 14.7 percent. There were 796 write-in ballots.

All results were unofficial pending canvassing.


Rejection of levies signals significant cuts

Because voters rejected both proposed levies on the ballot, the school district expects to cut about $14 million from the budget over the next two years. That includes $2 million of reductions to “align staffing with enrollment” that were projected to occur regardless of the election’s outcome.

“One of the things that’s frustrating about this is that our expectations for our work and the accomplishments of our students doesn’t change,” Supt. Kate Maguire said.

One of the levies voters rejected was a 5-year operating levy that would have provided $9 million per year. The other was a 10-year technology levy that would have raised $5 million per year.

The operating levy received 33,792 “yes” votes, or 49.9 percent and 33,908 “no” votes, or 50.1 percent. That’s a difference of 116 votes.

The technology levy garnered 32,470 votes in favor, or 48.3 percent, and 34,757 votes against, or 51.7 percent. The difference was 2,287 votes.

“It’s heartbreakingly close,” Maguire said. “… Certainly I’m disappointed, and I’m disappointed because I know what it means. We’ve been here before. And I know the good results we’re getting for students in our community. … It’s going to be difficult to sustain that progress with fewer and fewer (staff members).”

In spite of the disappointment, Maguire said she’s grateful to everyone who supported the levies and worked to inform others.

The district has estimated cuts will result in the loss of the equivalent of about 200 full-time positions.

According to Maguire, the advisory committee that looks at long-range financial planning has already worked to identify essential services, such as those required by law. In November and December the school board will begin having work sessions to consider the budget. The board will provide direction to staff, and the district will begin identifying specific areas for reductions in next year’s budget.


Who voted for the levies?

The division of levy votes generally reflected the income differences in the district, with the more affluent cities in the district favoring the levies more than other cities did.

In Brooklyn Center, zero of four precincts in the district supported the operating levy. In Brooklyn Park, four of 18 precincts voted for it. Osseo’s one precinct did not support it.

In Maple Grove, however, 14 of 23 precincts in the district approved the operating levy. Four of the district’s six precincts in Plymouth favored the levy.

The tech levy followed a similar pattern.

No precincts in Brooklyn Center supported the tech levy. Four precincts in Brooklyn Park approved it, and Osseo’s one precinct did not approve.

In Maple Grove, eight precincts favored the tech levy, and in Plymouth four precincts approved it.