ISD 709 Will Ask Voters For Levy Raise, Extension in November

By KBJR News 1

August 16, 2011 Updated Aug 16, 2011 at 10:28 PM CDT

DULUTH, MN (Northland's NewsCenter) - Homeowners in Duluth will be asked if they are willing to pay more taxes next year to prevent cuts in school programs.

The School Board voted tonight to ask district voters to raise and extend the current operating levy.

Three questions will appear on the ballot and all include tax hikes.

Voters will to decided how much they want to invest in Duluth Public schools.

If any of the three are passed, it would replace the current levy.

The new levy would extend the current one by three years, so taxpayers would pay through the end of 2016.

What voters will see on their ballots?

The first levy option would raise taxes $5 per month for a home valued at just over $125,000, generating $2.9 million for the district each year.

The second increases taxes $7.50 on the same home, generating $4.4-million.

The third option would raise taxes $9.50 cents, generating $5.6-million.

The district's business manager says he expects next year's budget deficit to be between $4 and $5-million without the levy, so that means option one cuts the deficit to less than $2.1 million, the second option would mean breaking even and the third, gives the district extra funds to work with.

The board worked for almost 45 minutes Tuesday to persuade all members to support asking for a levy - something some members said was important as the board brought the measure to the public.

"To say that we wouldn't support that I wouldn't understand that it's like saying you don't support somebody's right to vote and I think we need to give them that opportunity to express themselves," said Tom Kasper, a Duluth School Board member. He tried to persuade two members to vote for the levy.

"I think the levy is not the be all, end all but it certainly is a part of the solution," added Dr. I.V. Foster, Duluth Superintendent.

In the end, all but Gary Glass and Art Johnston approved putting the levy on the ballot - making the board's vote 5 to 2.

The two members believe there are other ways money could have been spent in the past to avoid the deficit issues.

However, administration says the main reason for needing the levy comes from the state borrowing from schools, and no increases in the state aid formula for years.

If voters turn down all three options this November, the old levy, which was passed in 2008, would continue as planned and residents still have a couple years left to pay towards that levy.

It also means the district could see the projected deficit of $4 to $5-million for the 2012, 2013 school year, and that means cuts.

Posted to Web by Jena Pike