School district pleased with technology referendum result

Mike Milbrandt

The Montevideo School District put forth two questions to voters during this year’s General Election. Although only one of the two ballot questions was passed, the district is pleased and grateful to voters for doing so.

The first question dealt with continuing the existing $154.76 technology referendum which was passed in 2011 while the second question asked for an $303.24 increase in the per pupil unit levy.

“We were very happy that the voters were in favor of renewing the existing referendum for technology,” said Montevideo Schools Superintendent Dr. Luther Heller. “Every dollar from that referendum question will go toward classroom technology.

The technology referendum which was passed in 2011 proved to be a fortuitous event for the district. No one could have predicted the role that the technology which was acquired in the ensuing years would play in the current pandemic. “Our primary emphasis was getting the technology renewal because that was what made it possible for us to be able to respond to how we operate during this pandemic,” said Dr. Heller. “Thanks to our community, we will be able to sustain our technology initiative for the benefit of our students and staff. We are very appreciative of our voters support.”

Of course, the district is disappointed that the second question did not pass. Dr. Heller felt that there were a few reasons why the question was rejected by voters. He said: “We possibly didn’t make our case strong enough as to how that money would be utilized so it wasn’t clear in everyone’s mind. In addition, we are currently in a time of much uncertainty with the pandemic. Also, passage of the second question would have meant a tax increase, and that worked against us with the uncertainty of the economy.”

The school district has recently been looking at expanding programs and possibly building a new elementary school, but they may have to scale back or hold off on those proposals. Dr. Heller said: “It will be difficult to do some things we were considering, such as expanding some of the programs in career and technical education, but I think we have to be cognizant of the fact that in uncertain economic times, people are reluctant to raise their taxes because the future is uncertain.

“While it is disappointing the $303.24 per pupil unit increase was not passed, I don’t think it was completely surprising. We were hopeful we could get both of questions passed, but we believed that getting the first one passed was really the critical piece for us.”

The passage of the 2011 technology referendum allowed the school district to purchase state-of-the art technology in the following years. Projection technology, smart boards, WiFi, and Chromebooks were some of the technology upgrades that were made possible from the passage of that referendum. The latest technology which was installed over the course of this past summer were interactive Viewboards.

Even though the $303.46 per pupil unit levy question did not pass, there are still needs for the school district which will have to be addressed in the future. Dr. Heller said: “As far as going back before the voters with another referendum question, that remains to be seen. There’s been no talk about doing so at this point.

“I wouldn’t have any idea which way the school board would go on that if they were to consider it. They would need to discuss what they felt were the pros and cons, and what they feel would be the appropriate amount to ask for. There would need to be a lot to go into that discussion.”

According to Minnesota statute, operating referendums can only take place during fall elections, and it remains to be seen what the school district’s options will be in the future.