Rochester Referendum Rundown

Rochester Referendum Rundown

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(ABC 6 News) – Last year’s referendum was voted down by a narrow margin and today, it seems like the divide amongst voters is still here.

For leaders within Rochester Public Schools, they say last year’s failed referendum took a devastating blow at the polls last November. That $100 million technology referendum failed by less than 1%. Officials say it’s forced them to make tough choices.

“We said in every handout, every meeting, every tweet last year that if the referendum fails, we were going to cutting 10 million dollars for next year,” said Superintendent Dr. Kent Pekel.

But with a generous donation from Mayo Clinic, in addition to the school board recently renewing the 2015 levy, the district has avoided some painful cuts for now.

“The 2015 referendum is existing and was not going to raise anybody’s taxes the legislature and the governor gave school districts the opportunity that one time for the same amount. Had we not done that it would’ve been an additional $17 million hole in our budget for next year,” said Pekel.

But some voters are frustrated the district is asking for “a handout,” again.

“We are totally against that. That is not democracy. That is taking the power of the people away from them,” said John Whelan with Say No to the Tax Man.

Others say that funding is essential.

“I think that it’s one of those things that, given the cuts that we are seeing, that have been threatened and could still come. It’s important to at least keep that baseline,” said Shelley Mahannah with Vote Yes.

Despite the recent funds RPS, is putting another measure back on the ballot this fall.

“This one will be an operating referendum which means it can go for our core working of teaching, and learning,” said Dr. Pekel.

But will they get voters on their side?

“I have two kids in school, public schools. And for me it’s just this is a no brainer,” said Mahannah.

“It’s the same message, ‘say ‘no’ to the tax man,'” said John Whelan.

The referendum for this year as not been official proposed by Pekel, yet. Once he makes his proposal which will be sometime this spring the board will vote on whether it’s put on the ballot in November.