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Duluth schools would lose building money under proposal that cleared Senate committee

ST. PAUL -- Duluth schools would lose state money for building upkeep in 2011 under a proposal that passed a Senate education finance committee Wednesday.

Demolition at Ordean
A laborer uses a sledge hammer to break down part of a wall in a classroom at Ordean School in October 2009 as part of the demolition making way for reconstruction. 2009 file / News Tribune

ST. PAUL -- Duluth schools would lose state money for building upkeep in 2011 under a proposal that passed a Senate education finance committee Wednesday.

The proposal would reduce money available for financing school building projects in 2011 in Duluth, St. Paul and Minneapolis from nearly $17.4 million to $3.6 million by eliminating payments to schools.

Duluth's portion of that money is $600,000, said Ron Soberg, lobbyist to area school districts. The school district could try to replace the lost funding through a property tax levy, he said.

The bill's author, Sen. LeRoy Stumpf, DFL-Plummer, said his hope in cutting facilities spending was to avoid cuts to classrooms.

"The basic rationale is so that we could keep our classrooms whole," he said.

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At least one of Stumpf's colleagues was skeptical. Sen. Ellen Anderson, DFL-St. Paul, said she thinks the cuts could affect classrooms because there is no guarantee a property tax levy would replace the lost funding.

"It is not the best strategy for taxpayers in just three cities to bear the burden," she said.

The measure passed the committee by voice vote. The bill still must pass at least two other committees before it will be heard on the Senate floor.

Andrew Tellijohn reports for Forum Communications Co., which owns the News Tribune.

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