Rochester Public Schools referendum approval greenlights largest - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

Rochester Public Schools referendum approval greenlights largest voter increase in funding in nearly twenty years


Once the buckets of ballots came rolling in Tuesday night, it was the moment of truth for Rochester Public Schools' 10 percent tax levy increase.

"I've always been confident that it was going to pass," said Rochester Public Schools assistant superintendent Brenda Lewis. "It just was a little closer than maybe I would've liked it to be."

Hour after hour, Rochester Public Schools administrators waited to see a result on if their referendum would pass. Then, at 1:30 in the morning, they finally found their answer, by a microscopic margin. The answer was yes, but only by 239 of the 20,000 votes cast.

It was an emotional end for Rochester Public Schools superintendent Michael Muñoz, who rejoiced when the referendum was victorious. "Obviously, we're very excited," said Muñoz while holding back tears. "It's a great day for Rochester Public Schools and it's a great day for our students."

The levy will increase funding by more than $500 per student and avoids a $3.8 million deficit for Rochester Public Schools next school year. It is the largest referendum passed for RPS since February 1996, when voters approved a $37 million bond to build what would later become Century High School.

"I think there's a lot of people out there that did not trust our school district," said teacher Kay Tessum shortly after the Century High School bond passed. "That's why it's not only a vote for a new school, but a vote for a new attitude."

While the trust issues with RPS may still exist if Tuesday's razor thin vote margin is any evidence, Muñoz believes the victory is a sign Rochester's education is still a priority.

"We worked really hard to get the respect and the trust of the district back, said Muñoz. "I think this shows that we've done that."

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