Petition drive for new referendum halfway to goal

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 28, 2001

A group of concerned citizens hasn’t given up on school levies for the Albert Lea school district.

Friday, December 28, 2001

A group of concerned citizens hasn’t given up on school levies for the Albert Lea school district. They are currently organizing a petition drive to ask the School Board to consider a new levy referendum for November of 2002.

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The goal is to get the signatures of at least 2,100 registered district voters – 15 percent of the voters in the district – before presenting the petitions to the School Board in January. As of the week before Christmas, 1,050 signatures had already been collected.

The number that serves as the group’s goal comes from the school board itself, said Phil Bartusek, a spokesman for the group.

&uot;The school district said they wanted to see signatures from at least 15 percent of the district’s voters before they would consider holding another referendum,&uot; he said.

By law a school board in Minnesota is allowed to bring one referendum a year before voters. But the Albert Lea School Board wanted to see more community support before they started looking at another referendum in 2002, Bartusek said.

Up to this point, petitions have mainly been available at schools and at school-related events. Tables have been set up at all sports events and at most of the holiday concerts, and those efforts will continue into the new year. Signatures were also gathered up until Christmas Eve at Northbridge Mall, on the days that band members were raising money by wrapping Christmas presents.

Starting this weekend, efforts are being made to place petitions in places where people gather, including businesses and churches. Organizers will be meeting with area pastors and business owners to get permission to collect signatures at more locations.

&uot;People can start looking for petitions at their grocery stores, at Wal-Mart, at churches, wherever we can get permission to set up a table,&uot; said Bartusek.

Petitions are also available in the offices of local schools, although that is the limit of school involvement at the moment, said Bartusek.

The current plan is to bring the petitions to the school board meeting Jan. 22. Supporters of a new referendum want to start building support for a referendum earlier than last time, Bartusek said.

&uot;We made some mistakes last November.We need to do a better job of answering people’s questions this time around,&uot; he said.

Those most involved with the petition drive were also involved in the Kids II Committee during the last referendum. They plan on holding an informational meeting about the petition drive and a new referendum on Wednesday, Jan. 9 at 7 p.m. in the board room at Brookside.

Some want to see more signatures on the petitions than the number the school board says it needs to see.

&uot;I would like to come into the meeting with more signatures than the 2,700 yes votes in the last referendum,&uot; said Bartusek.