Litchfield school bond referendum fails, but operating levies pass in Hancock, Paynesville

Paynesville and Hancock school district voters approved operating levies in the Nov. 8 election. The Hancock levy was approved with an inflation adjustment. Paynesville voters turned down an inflation adjustment. Both levies will last 10 years. In Litchfield, voters approved a city sales tax but turned down a school bond referendum that would have added an aquatic facility to the proposed sales tax projects.

"I Voted" stickers were waiting on a chair Tuesday morning while an election judge handed them out at the polling station at the Senior Center in Willmar, Minn.
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Several school districts in the area put ballot questions in front of their voters Tuesday.

Operating levies were approved in the Paynesville and Hancock districts. A second ballot question in Paynesville, which would have allowed increases at the rate of inflation, failed.

A bond referendum in Litchfield to build an aquatic facility failed.

Beckie Simenson, Litchfield superintendent, said the $13.5 million bond issue was to have been used to build an eight-lane competition pool, locker rooms and other amenities that could have been used by community members.

The referendum failed on a vote of 2,405 in favor and 2,578 opposed, a margin of 48.26% to 51.74%.


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Beckie Simenson, Litchfield Superintendent
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Litchfield’s voters did approve a city sales tax Tuesday. The tax proceeds will be used to build a four-station multi-purpose field house and other amenities, Simenson said. The city portion of the project is expected to open in fall 2025.

The school district’s proposed aquatic center would have replaced an aging pool, and would have included locker rooms and offices. New ball fields and tennis courts were also part of the plan.

“While we’re disappointed that the bond referendum was not approved, we respect the voters’ decision,” Simenson said. “This plan was made up of two separate proposals, so the city’s portion of the facility will move forward as planned and the school district is reviewing its options moving forward ”

Paynesville school voters approved an operating levy of $460 per pupil for 10 years, and it would be added to property taxes in 2023. It will replace a previous levy of $39.25 per pupil which expires at the end of the year.

The levy was approved 1,459, or 51%, in favor to 1,402, or 49%, opposed.

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Janell Bullard, Superintendent, Paynesville Area Schools

A second question would have allowed the operating levy to increase by the rate of inflation beginning with property taxes paid in 2024.

The inflation question failed 1,191, or 41.85%, in favor to 1,655, or 58.15%, opposed.

“The District is grateful to the support of our community and understands the current economic state,” said Superintendent Janell Bullard. “The District will continue to evaluate our efficiencies and demonstrate fiscal responsibility as we plan while keeping students, programming and opportunity as our top priority.”


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Paul Carlson, Superintendent, Hancock Public Schools
Paul Carlson, Superintendent, Hancock Public Schools
Vanderwerf, Linda

In the Hancock ballot question, voters overwhelmingly approved a 10-year operating levy of $460, an increase from $449.03 per pupil. An inflation adjustment was included in the same question.

The levy was approved 374, or 72%, in favor and 145, or 28%, opposed.

"I am very pleased that the school board was able to find a referendum solution that meets the needs of the district and was supported by the community,” Superintendent Paul Carlson said. “The school board remains committed to finding ways to focus on the educational priorities of the district and to make the most of every dollar invested by residents in our school."

In 42 years in the newspaper industry, Linda Vanderwerf has worked at several daily newspapers in Minnesota, including the Mesabi Daily News, now called the Mesabi Tribune in Virginia. Previously, she worked for the Las Cruces Sun-News in New Mexico and the Rapid City Journal in the Black Hills of South Dakota. She has been a reporter at the West Central Tribune for nearly 27 years.

Vanderwerf can be reached at email: or phone 320-214-4340
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