Voters in Trout Lake provided strong support for the Trout Lake School District in the Feb. 3 special election. With the fate of a new maintenance and operation (M&O) levy hanging on the outcome, local citizens turned out in relatively large numbers to make sure the school district had what it needed.
In updated returns that included ballots received as of Feb. 6, voters were supporting the 2010-2011 M&O levy by a big margin: There were 278 "Yes" votes, or 68.1 percent; versus 130 "No" votes, or 31.9 percent.
The returns are still unofficial and incomplete.
The voter turnout, as of Friday's tally, stood at 60.6 percent.
Trout Lake Schools Superintendent Doug Dearden said he was gratified at the community's support for the local school district.
"I'm very pleased, especially given the circumstances we're under here with increased property valuations and economic conditions," Dearden said. "I'm really appreciative of our community. They stepped up big time in supporting the schools. These are difficult times, and to step up and vote in favor of this shows a real commitment."
Dearden realized that passing a new levy was likely to be problematic this year.
"I didn't think the `Yes' vote would be that high, and also we asked for more this time," he explained. "In 2007, the M&O levy was for $230,000, but this time we were asking for $412,000."
According to Dearden, the levy amount needed to be higher for 2010-2011 partly because the Trout Lake School District is going to lose some state funding. Also, there are deferred maintenance issues that the school district needs to address.
Dearden pointed out that about 75 percent of the M&O funds will go maintain existing programs, with the remaining 25 percent paying for maintenance.
"The parking lot needs to be resurfaced; the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems need to be addressed; the roof needs repair; and there are some smaller repair items within the building," Dearden said.
The school district also needs a new vehicle for transporting students for events where there are not enough to justify having a bus transport them, and for staff to use for various events they need to attend.
The most likely candidate for replacement is the Trout Lake School District's 1997 Suburban, which has about 160,000 miles on it.
"We would probably replace that with a new van," Dearden said. "We want to make sure if kids are in a vehicle, it's a safe vehicle."
The levy funding approved by voters will not be available until 2010, but knowing the money will be coming allows the school district to begin planning to execute the repairs.
"We really thank the community for its support," Dearden added. "We appreciate the vote of confidence in what we're doing for the kids here. The kids will greatly benefit."
All ballots postmarked by Feb. 3 will be counted, and the Auditor's Office will continue to post the latest tally. The results will be updated in next week's issue of The Enterprise.