Predicting A More Unified Duluth School Board After Elections

By KBJR News 1

November 9, 2011 Updated Nov 9, 2011 at 10:56 PM CDT

DULUTH, MN (Northland's NewsCenter) - It was a bittersweet victory for the winning candidates for school board in Duluth. Although they were voted in, they will be facing tough budget decisions because none of the three levy questions passed.

Incumbent Judy Seliga Punyko, Mike Miernicki and Bill Westholm, all three of whom were district employees, were mostly smiles after election results rolled-in.

"I really appreciate all the support I got. I want to congratulate Ryan Stauber on running a clean campaign," said Miernicki.

"We are really excited. I look so forward to working with Bill and Mern," said Seliga Punyko.

"Now my job is to make good on doing what the people expect me to do," said Westholm.

With no voter approved levy increase to work with, they face tough budget decisions next year.

"It is going to be difficult," said Seliga Punyko.

"It's going to be a real job to figure out squeeze and what we can cut," said Westholm.

"Maybe we can couple with other government entities and other schools districts and group buy, save some money that way, " said Miernicki.

They have their own ideas of why the levy didn't pass, while they, three very pro-levy candidates, were put on the board.

"Maybe it was confusing, the three levels, but I think there's a lot of mistrust that was out there that was generated by a couple members of the board," said Seliga Punyko.

Those two board members, Gary Glass and Art Johnston, have voted inconsistently with the rest of the board on several budget related issues such as the levy and teacher cuts.

"If we come back with a levy, we're going to have to sell it to the public and really tell them and let them know why we need this," said Westholm.

Glass didn't seek re-election, so only Johnston will remain.

"I think that we going to see some wonderful respect, civility," said Seliga Punyko.

"We have a goal in mind, we've got help the kids in Duluth. We've got to make sure we've got one of the finest school systems... I think we will work together as a board now. I'm looking forward to working with the board and solving our problems," said Miernicki.

While the elections may be over, the board members-elect are up against a projected $4 - 5 million budget deficit for the next school year.

Had the first levy question passed, it would have cut the projected deficit in half.

The second question would have allowed the district to more or less break even, and the third would have given the district an excess of funds.

Posted to Web by Jena Pike