Breaking down the 2014 Duluth Schools tax levy

By KBJR News 1

December 18, 2013 Updated Dec 18, 2013 at 11:50 PM CST

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) - Following Tuesday's near unanimous vote by the Duluth School Board to increase district levies, questions are brewing over where the funds will go.

After voters approved a referendum in November to increase the general fund to support the school curriculum and reduce class size, but some people are now concerned that they will be paying even more to help pay-off millions in controversial Red Plan debt.

On Tuesday, the board voted 6 to 1 to increase taxes by 11.9%. That percentage includes the referendum voters approved in November.

The board last night approved a $3.9 million increase to the debt service levy.

For the past few years, the district has been using money from the general fund to help pay the $300 million in Red Plan debt.

But, because the district has not sold several of its closed school buildings, the districts savings have dwindled.

School officials say the district has roughly 16 million dollars worth of unsold property.

On Tuesday, the board used its authority to vote in an increase to property taxes to help pay-off that debt.

"The portion that was previously earmarked to be used from the revenues from the building sales that would serve to reduce the tax levy, we're no longer able to provide for that until the buildings actually sell," said Bill Hanson, Executive Director of Business Services for Duluth Schools.

Beginning in 2014, district property owners will pay $5.13 per month or $61 more a year for a home with an average value of $150,000.

The voter approved referendum will bring in$1.8 million or roughly 6.5 percent to improve curriculum and lower class sizes.

Tuesday's approved levy will bring in $3.8 million dollars to pay off debt from unsold district buildings.

The total approved levy increase is set at $5.7 million for 2014.

Jeremy Brickley
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