When the vote fails, rural districts hold few cards

Floodwood School (PHOTO: Lakesnwoods.com)

On Tuesday, voters in the Floodwood, Minn., school district rejected a $700,000 operating bond referendum by a vote of 352-336. This close vote in a small district will make a big difference.

Teachers and officials suggest up to eight teachers could lose their jobs without the local funding. Elementary sections could be combined. Most electives at the high school could be eliminated.

Floodwood doesn’t have an operating bond right now, which is unusual. Thus, it seems most voters simply don’t want to spend additional local dollars beyond the base levy and what the state allocates. Another operating referendum failed last November by 60 votes.

The superintendent wonders aloud what more she could have explained. The teacher’s union laments not just the lost jobs, but the lost curriculum as well.

This same peril faces many rural districts, especially those with single schools in small towns. State allocation falls short. Expenses rise. If voters don’t care to spend, the red pens come out.

In the end, students receive an education not quite as good as it was before. For some that’s OK. Over time, people get used to it. Families who want more go elsewhere if they can.

The problem is demographics. And population loss. Economics. Politics. A cycle that we need to break. Because this isn’t the first story like this in rural Minnesota. It won’t be the last.


  1. Joe musich says

    So almost immediately in space in the Strib the article about the Floodwood vote debacle appears an article about a range party for legislators way down here in the twin cities at a rather well known watering hole. It is a sort of annual event sponsored by legislators up there for fellow legislators. There is a picture of Tomassoni firing up the crowd. So what have these characters done to help Floodwood ? Maybe they have made efforts. I just do not know. Certainly nothing seems to have jelled.

  2. I suspect it is primarily about property taxes going up statewide. When the county assessor is already inflating your house valuation every year, and then the school district asks for an additional $400/year on top of that, it just gets to be too much, no matter how fondly we view the local school and its staff.

  3. Lisa Rudstrom says

    We need tax revenue from jobs. I have one word: Mining. Do you know that mines contribute about 50 million dollars per year to our schools? https://www.taconite.org/mining-industry
    Also, about 1/2 of that money goes to metro area schools: https://www.virginiamn.com/mine/mining-funds-all-minnesota-schools/article_e0220246-7979-11e8-b515-635cdec50b2c.html
    Where is our check from U.S Bank Stadium? We need to change the way the Permanent School Trust fund is distributed, resulting is less tax burden for already struggling northern communities. How much does your school receive? Check it out on this interactive map: https://arcgis.dnr.state.mn.us/portal/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=986d086ebf8a4c0fb6add223da601bfd

  4. Chris Freeman says

    As I understand, you are a teacher, so you are going to be biased here. Isn’t the base levy already $6312 per student for 2019? Seems like it’s not an income problem but instead an expense problem.

    • I am one who doesn’t like wasteful spending, but that $6300 wouldn’t really go that far, especially in a smaller school district. The schools could probably operate at the bare minimum with it, but not be able to offer additional classes or activities which is what the Floodwood school district has been saying. I don’t know what their student body size is, but say it is 500 students. That gets you around 3.25 million to operate with. Seems like a lot. But then you figure at that number of students you are looking at 2 teachers per grade to teach the basic requirements and keep numbers at a resonable 20-25 kids/class. Then let’s say throw in 12 support staff (aids, secretaries, cooks, principal) and an average salary of $40k. Almost half your budget is gone just for that. Then there are supplies, facilities, busing, technology, insurance, and numerous other expenses. Doesn’t leave much to offer basic extra curriculars or elective classes like languages, music, shop, or advanced math/science. There are things screwed up with the system, but the reality is that funding probably isn’t where it should with what our society expects them to provide. If the community wants more, then they have to decide if they are willing to pay for that or if they think that the state should be providing more (and then that money has to come from some other tax).

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