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EGF: Election results late because of voter turnout

With a school referendum, the mayor's seat and an at-large City Council seat at stake, voter turnout in East Grand Forks was overwhelming on Election Day.

With a school referendum, the mayor's seat and an at-large City Council seat at stake, voter turnout in East Grand Forks was overwhelming on Election Day.

So much so that, nearing midnight, not enough votes had been counted to definitively call any race but one uncontested council race in Ward 3.

The trends favored the referendum option that would increase school funding by $500 per student. Incumbent Mayor Lynn Stauss and at-large candidate Mike Pokrzywinski were also ahead.

As of 11:15 p.m., Stauss had 68 percent of the vote, Pokrzywinski 64 percent and the referendum's $500 option had 61 percent. An option for $400 per student got 64 percent.

The results for the mayoral race was somewhat unexpected because the challenger, Gary Jones, was a write-in candidate and announced his candidacy less than a week ago.


Ward 3 incumbent Craig Buckalew was unchallenged. Ward 5 incumbent Wayne Gregoire was unchallenged. There were no significant write-ins anticipated.

Results for the Ward 1 council race were not in. Incumbent Clarence Vetter was up against challenger Marc DeMers.

The number of voters was high, though it's not clear if it would surpass the highly contested 2006 election in which a previous school referendum was narrowly defeated by just 21 votes. City staff workers said more than 2,200 voters turned out that they know of, not including Ward 5, which was an unknown.

In 2006, 3,281 voters weighed in on the referendum, 2,736 of them in the city and the rest in the rural areas of the school district.

East Grand Forks voters got two options to increase their taxes to support the school district. Voters could also choose to reject an increase altogether.

A $400 per student increase cost $75 per $100,000 in home value each year and a $500 option bumped the increase up to $94 per year. The $500 per pupil increase only could pass if voters also approved the $400 option.

The increases would take effect for the 2008-09 school year with about half of the money raised coming from the state.

Last year, voters defeated a levy referendum that would have cost about $108 per $100,000 in home value for 10 years.


Defeat of this year's referendum would mean the district faces about $350,000 to $400,000 in deficit spending next school year and the following cuts would be recommended to offset costs, according to Superintendent David Pace:

-- Increase class sizes: Kindergarten through second grade may increase to a minimum of 24 students per classroom. Third through sixth grade may have a minimum of 28 students. Secondary elective classes may have minimums of 25 students.

-- Eliminate individual music lessons for seventh- through 12th-graders.

-- Only provide busing for students according to the minimum state requirements.

-- Eliminate district support for student dances, programs and field trips.

-- Eliminate middle school extra-curricular activities.

-- Eliminate College-in-the-Classroom courses.

-- Increase activity fees to self-sustaining levels.


-- Cut a minimum of nine full-time certified staff.

The $400 per pupil levy increase would provide $150,000 to $200,000 to supplement state aid used for general operating costs, according to Pace. The rest of the money generated would be used for reading and math coaches, expansion of the college-in-the-classroom and vocational programs, as well as improving the district's Web site, he said.

The $500 per pupil increase would allow the district to also upgrade facilities such as the Senior High School gym floor and sound system, as well as the schools' exterior track, according to Pace. Senior High was built 44 years ago.

The higher increase also would pay to replace and upgrade student computer labs as well, according to Pace.

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