Marv Begin, spokesman for Citizen's Concerned About School Taxation, was weary but pleased with the outcome Tuesday on the Brainerd School District operating levy referendum.
Although Begin's comments were made with 17 of 19 precincts reporting, they followed Superintendent Jerry Walseth's concession of the vote and his directive to staff members to go home, take care of themselves and to take care of staff and students on Wednesday.
"The people have spoken and they want reform and controlled spending and proper management," Begin said. "I think the people are just tired of the school coming to them for more money, more money."
Begin thanked his organization and the people who voted no.
"It's a great feeling and our group did a great job," he said.
After Walseth's concession Begin made good on a promise made earlier that night and did an abbreviated dance in celebration of the defeat of the referendum.
Shortly before the polls closed Begin said he couldn't predict how the voters would decide.
"I feel we've done everything we can possibly do," the retired builder said.
Begin ran for the Brainerd School Board unsuccessfully three times and blamed his losses on his candid suggestions - such as the time he suggested teachers go without a raise one year.
"You've got to be careful what you say - and that's not me," Begin said.
Before moving to Fort Ripley Township in 1987, Begin worked for 26 years, building homes, restaurants and other buildings. He'd work with concrete or some other aspect of the construction during the day and then provide estimates for potential customers at night.
For most of his professional career he worked in the Twin Cities or Arizona.
Begin, 77, admitted to being a little weary as the polls closed Tuesday, stating he was "too old" for this political activity.
The tax burden that schools place on district residents has been a longtime concern for Begin.
"I've always been interested in helping others," he said before the ballots were counted Tuesday. "This is definitely too much of a burden. Every company is going to have to raise their prices. Renters are going to have to pay more money. There's going to be layoffs. ...We're definitely going to have a recession if this passes. This is one bad tax. That's why I've given it all I can give."
For the last two or three weeks, wherever he's gone, Begin has carried the Citizens Concerned about School Taxation signs, urging a no vote. His group distributed 300 signs stating that the levy was "too much money." He said about 50 of the signs were printed with an intentional misspelling, "to much money." The misspelling was done to attract attention, Begin said.
The committee spent a total of about $3,000, Begin said, with about $945 being spent on signs.
"If the no vote wins, I'm going to do a dance - sore leg and all," he said.
While waiting for votes to come in Begin playfully took pictures of Brainerd Dispatch staffers since he'd been photographed by them on several occasions.
When the first precinct revealed a sizable lead for those voting no Begin said the returns represented a start but he would reserve judgment.
"I'm not going to get interested until Baxter gets up there," he said referring to the computer screen being projected in the school board room at Washington Education Services Building in Brainerd.
Begin said that while he's been the spokesman for those opposing the operating levy referendum there were many people involved in the effort.
MIKE O'ROURKE may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5860.
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