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ACGC sends ballots in mail for referendum

GROVE CITY -- Ballots asking voters to approve a tax increase to raise revenue for their schools were put in the mail Tuesday in the Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City School District.

About 3,689 ballots were mailed to district residents, according to Superintendent Pamela Kyllingstad.

Completed ballots for the special referendum must be returned to the district office by 8 p.m. Dec. 1.

Kyllingstad said residents using the mail-in ballots should carefully follow instructions for casting a valid ballot. The process includes having someone witness your vote. That witness must sign the second envelope in order for the vote to be counted. The witness doesn't have to be an official, but they do need to be a registered voter in Minnesota.

Residents who prefer to vote in person, rather than use the mail-in ballot, can go to the ACGC Junior-Senior High School in Grove City between 3:30-8 p.m. on Dec. 1.

The ACGC School Board is seeking approval of a seven-year operating levy. If approved, an additional $450 per pupil-unit would be collected, generating about $438,000 in new revenue each year. The district approved a $650 per pupil-unit operating levy in 2003 that expires in 2010.

The added revenue is needed, said Kyllingstad, to help get the district out of statutory operating debt -- a term in state law that refers to deficit spending of more than 2.5 percent of expenditures. Besides raising new revenue to get out of debt, the school board also intends to cut staff and programs.

If the operating levy is defeated, cuts to staff and programs will be even deeper, said Kyllingstad.

Kyllingstad and the district's principals have offered to take a zero increase in their next contract. At its meeting Monday, the board approved a one-year contract, through June 30, 2006, for Kyllingstad.

On a 5-1 vote (with one board member absent) the board approved two-year contracts for three non-certified staff that reflect the same increases that the board hopes to negotiate with certified staff. The contract includes a 30-cent-per-hour increase in the first year and another 30 cents per hour in the second year, plus 1 percent.

A contract was approved for the community education director that reflects the salary increase that will be proposed to the teachers. The contract includes a 1.5 percent increase for each of the two years, which is the same as a step on the teachers' schedule, with an additional 1 percent increase in the second year.

Rich Nordin was the only board member to vote no on the contracts. Kyllingstad said Nordin stated that there should have been zero increases in salaries considering the financial situation of the district.

The board also approved a contract with the business manager with the "details to be worked out later," said Kyllingstad.

To help inform residents about the statutory operating debt the district is in, and to explain the referendum, informational meetings will be held around the district.

The first meeting will be at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at ACGC North in Atwater.

Meetings will also be at 7 p.m. Nov. 21 at ACGC South in Cosmos and at 7 p.m. Nov. 22 at the Junior-Senior High School in Grove City.

The board will hold a special meeting at 5:30 p.m. Dec. 5 to canvass the votes.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for 35 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

(320) 894-9750