EMERY - By a margin of nine votes, residents in the Bridgewater-Emery School District narrowly turned down increasing the school's property tax opt-out by $150,000 on Tuesday.
In an election for a $400,000 opt-out, the election had 211 votes in opposition and 202 votes in support. The property tax opt-out would have started in 2020 and applied through 2024, if passed.
The Bridgewater-Emery School Board proposed the opt-out on Jan. 14, and that decision was referred to voters. The vote needed a simple majority to pass.
The school district had a $250,000 opt-out for the last five years but officials said the school district's general fund balance has continued to decline because of increased operating costs and inadequate state funding. School leaders also pointed to changes in budget rules from the state government regarding the use of pension and capital outlay funding that makes a balanced budget more difficult.
"The school district will struggle to maintain current instructional programs and student support mechanisms, in the 2020-2021 school year and beyond," according to B-E school district voting information provided to voters. "A property tax opt out loss could result in reduced instructional programs and services, reduced professional learning opportunities, limited course offerings, and increasing class sizes."
Bridgewater-Emery's district, which includes voters in Hanson, Hutchinson and McCook counties, has had an opt-out ranging between $100,000 and $250,000 for the last eight years. The district has 340 students, up from 300 eight years ago, but the school district is expecting a large decrease in enrollment after the conclusion of the 2020-21 school year.
Other area elections Tuesday:
• Avon: In a race for the Avon School Board, Jeff Tolsma retained his seat in a close election. Tolsma received 82 votes, while Bridgette Muller received 76 votes in a race for the three-year term.
• Colome: Brett Galbraith and Joel Koskan won election to the Colome Consolidated School Board Tuesday, each claiming three-year terms. Galbraith received 125 votes, while Koskan received 117 votes. Also on the ballot was Ryan DeSmet (97 votes), Cole Nicholas (87 votes), Holly Pechota (59 votes), and Casey Jo Shippy (31 votes).
• Delmont: Voters decided two municipal issues, voting to expand the town's Board of Trustees. By a 34-24 vote, residents decided to increase the board to five members, up from three. In an election for a three-year board seat, challenger Larry Clouse defeated incumbent Earla Strid by a 39-19 margin.
• Freeman: In a Freeman School Board election, Slade Ammann and Kyle Weier won the three-year terms with 180 and 167 votes, respectively. Collin Waltner received 114 votes. Ammann will be new to the board, replacing Laverne Diede, who did not run for re-election, while Weier was an incumbent.
• Spencer: Donna Ruden received 56 votes, defeating Mike Kaffar in an election for a city Board of Trustees seat. Kaffar had 20 votes.
• Winner: In a school board election, one incumbent and two newcomers were elected, while another incumbent was defeated in the five-person race. Newly elected board members are Julie Manke with 290 votes, incumbent Scott Meiners with 256 votes and Haley Barfuss with 234 votes. Each of the three positions carries a three-year term. The candidates who lost in their bids for seats were incumbent Nelle Schlomer with 225 votes and Ronald High Rock Jr. with 54 votes.