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Bemidji school levy passes easily

BEMIDJI – Voters in the Bemidji School District overwhelmingly supported the renewal of its $501-per-pupil operating levy in Tuesday’s election.

Voters in 37 precincts authorized a seven-year renewal of the operating levy, casting 66.5 percent in favor versus 33.5 percent opposed.

“That is just amazing,” said Ann Long Voelkner, the school board chairwoman. “The community has supported the schools and the kids in the schools.”

Supporters nearly doubled the opposition. In the vote, 11,715 people voted for the renewal of the levy – which extends through 2020 – while 5,900 were opposed

“To renew that with such a resounding ‘vote yes’ vote is amazing,” Long Voelkner said. “It’s wonderful for the kids.”

The levy, funding new buses, all-day every-day kindergarten, and reductions in class sizes, brings in $3.2 million annually for the district.

Tuesday’s vote marked the second time in two years that voters in the school district weighed in on a referendum.

In 2011, voters handily rejected a proposal to build a new elementary school. Then, 67 percent of voters turned down a $13 million bond package to build a new elementary school to be modeled after Lincoln Elementary and located on the Bemidji High School campus.

“They were two very different questions,” Long Voelkner said of last year’s bond question and this year’s levy renewal. “Last year was only about building a school. This year was about putting money into operating our school district.”