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Lawyers to look at Frazee petition

The Frazee School Board voted on Monday to bring in legal counsel to help validate a petition challenging a $1,000-per-student levy voters approved last fall.

Opponents of the excess operating levy need about 630 signatures to put the measure back on the general election ballot in November.

The levy raised taxes on a $100,000 home by roughly $220 a year. Previously, district homeowners paid about half the state average in school property taxes.

The district's legal counsel will offer a second opinion regarding the validity of the document and whether it meets requirements. And will help draft a legal statement to the petitioners themselves.

Frazee Superintendent Deron Stender said the movement now puts the issue in a legal realm.

"We don't know what the petitioners will do or how they'll react," Stender told the school board. "From this point on, we'll be investing in the counsel to help guide us."

Organizers turned in the petition to the district on July 30, apparently with more than the required number of signatures to get the referendum question back on the November ballot.

Becker County Auditor-Treasurer Ryan Tangen said the petition will need to be verified and certified by the school board and to the county by early September in order to be put on the November ballot. Absentee ballots are sent out in October.

Under state law, residents can challenge an operating levy at any time while it's in effect. They have a single shot at abolishing it, according to an earlier story in The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead.

"To my knowledge, there have been very few, if any petitions to revoke a referendum that already passed," Deputy Secretary of State Jim Gelbmann told The Forum.

The Minnesota School Boards Association has collected detailed referendum data since 2000; no do-overs took place in the state during that time.

Spokesman Greg Abbott believes it's been at least 20 years since the last petition drive of this sort.