By narrow margin, Duluth school district voters support operating levy increase
Duluth school district students should expect smaller class sizes next year as voters came out Tuesday in support of an operating levy increase. The first question to renew the current levy passed handily, with 12,211 yes votes to 6,403 no votes ...
Duluth school district students should expect smaller class sizes next year as voters came out Tuesday in support of an operating levy increase.
The first question to renew the current levy passed handily, with 12,211 yes votes to 6,403 no votes according to unofficial results compiled by the News Tribune. The second question asking for an increase squeaked by, with 9,436 yes votes to 9,130 no votes.
"I'm so excited," said Superintendent Bill Gronseth. "I think this is a great step for our community. We will be able to make some really great progress toward our goals ... I am so thankful for all the people that put so much time and effort into getting information out."
Voters were asked to both renew and increase the district's operating levy for five years. An increase means another $200 per pupil, which would give the district an additional $1.8 million and cost the owner of a $150,000 home another $45 per year.
With the approval of the first question comes $1.1 million in state aid. A failure would have meant the loss of that money. Built into the renewal amount is $1.9 million in equalization money the district gets regardless; funds from taxpayers authorized by the state this past legislative session for larger districts with higher costs.
With the passage of the second question, the total amount going to the district is $7.3 million, of which $2.9 million is new money and includes the state aid. The current yearly levy amount is $4.4 million.
The money from the increase is intended to hire from 13 to 18 more teachers to lower class sizes district-wide. It's also slated for updating curriculum, improve science programming and help students who need it the most.
In 2011, voters soundly defeated a three-tiered operating levy request. The current levy expires this school year.
Statewide, 57 school districts asked voters for operating levy money. As a way to narrow the funding gap between the highest and lowest-spending districts this year, the state gave school boards the authority to impose up to a $300 per pupil operating levy in lieu of a vote. But many, including the Duluth School Board, voted to let the public decide instead.
West Duluth resident Robin Pedersen, whose grandchildren attend Laura MacArthur Elementary, voted to increase the operating levy, saying students shouldn't suffer because people are still mad about the long-range facilities plan.
"They needed these schools to enhance Duluth to get people to move here and work here and raise families," she said. "We shouldn't take that away from kids. They have no vote in it."
But some people can't afford a tax increase, said Nanette Jasper, voting at Elim Lutheran Church in West Duluth. She voted to maintain the current levy.
"I can only afford so much these days," she said. "I can't afford more property taxes. I don't think a lot of people can."