Duluth School Board to decide about asking voters for more moneyNo specific amount was discussed at Monday’s business committee meeting, but school district administration recommended to the board to move forward with an operating levy vote.
By: Jana Hollingsworth, Duluth News Tribune
The Duluth School Board will decide next week whether it will ask voters for more classroom money in the November elections.
No specific amount was discussed at Monday’s business committee meeting, but school district administration recommended to the board to move forward with an operating levy vote. The current amount — $365.60 per student — expires in December.
Board Chairman Tom Kasper said later he was in support of asking for more money.
“The greatest need is to reduce class size at all levels,” he said. “We need to be clear that if a referendum is passed how that money would be used to address some of the concerns we heard from people at the dozens and dozens of Think Kids meetings the district held throughout the community.”
More than 30 meetings were held and a survey was used this winter to gauge what the community wanted the district to invest in most heavily going forward, among other things. The district must make $3.5 million in cuts for its next year’s budget, due by June 30. Its last attempt at an operating levy a year and a half ago failed.
Board member Art Johnston, who campaigned against the passage of that levy in 2011,
said Monday that he would support a new one “with some negotiations” with the board. Among his requirements were that the board follow its own bylaws and make changes to Red Plan financing to eliminate transfers from the general fund.
Johnston said he had made his offer to Superintendent Bill Gronseth.
Gronseth said the board already does follow its bylaws, and Johnston’s proposed changes to financing would raise taxes without a vote, as opposed to an operating levy where people get a chance to weigh in.
“Quite frankly, we’ve done that before and people didn’t like it,” Gronseth said, referencing the Red Plan and how it was approved by the School Board and state without voter approval. “I don’t want to go there again.”
Kasper said it’s not critical that the whole board support an operating levy, “but hopefully we can unanimously decide that getting it passed is the best thing for ISD 709.”