Changes to when and how school districts conduct bond levy elections are moving forward in multiple committees at the Minnesota Legislature. Both HF 729 (Fenton) and SF 514 (Kiffmeyer) allow only five dates for special elections, and SF 514 requires counties to conduct school district special elections. The House Omnibus Tax Bill HF 4 (Davids) goes further and limits these elections to only the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November.
The five allowed dates in HF729/SF514 are the second Tuesday in February, April, May, and August (the current state primary date, in even years), or the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November (the standard state general election date, in even years).
MREA believes school districts should be able to schedule these elections as they best fit the time schedule for potential bids, construction, and dates to occupy new spaces. With all the blackout dates currently on the calendar, five dates provides options throughout the year and may be simpler.
However to restrict schools to only November means all the districts that gain voter approval will be going out for bid at the same time and have nearly identical project schedules. Not only does this restrict the project schedules but it also could escalate costs as construction firms will be bidding on multiple projects.
SF 514 takes the authority for conducting special elections away from the School District Clerk and requires counties to conduct special elections for school districts and for school districts to pay the counties for their expenses. SF 514 also eliminates the ability of school districts to consolidate polling places when a school bond is the only election to be conducted on that date. The way this article is written, it also appears to apply to special elections for board vacancies.
For districts that are in multiple counties, the county in which the admin offices reside will be the ‘coordinating county’ and be responsible to organize the other counties.
School districts will not be able to consolidate polling places and save money on elections. Instead districts will “reimburse counties for the following costs incurred in the coordinating county or any administering county: the compensation prescribed for election judges and sergeants-at-arms, the cost of printing the school district ballots, providing ballot boxes, providing and equipping polling places, and all necessary expenses of the coordinating county and administering counties.”
MREA fails to see the logic in requiring counties to conduct school district special elections other than to strongly encourage districts to use the November dates when they are not responsible for election costs. MREA is unaware of cases of voter fraud or other election misconduct when school districts hold special elections.
MREA is also very concerned about the costs of running special elections for open board seats as is currently required, when the counties run the election and can bill for “all necessary expenses.”