Both sides of Hermantown School Referendum disagree on the other's numbers

By KBJR News 1

October 21, 2013 Updated Oct 21, 2013 at 5:42 PM CST

Hermantown, MN (NNCNOW.com) - There are a number of issues that the Hermantown Citizens Acting for Responsible Education, or H CARE, is taking with the city's proposed $48.9 million school referendum.

For starters, the grassroots organization says the plan's impact on real estate taxes is too great for the relatively small community.

"There's 9,500 people in Hermantown," said H CARE Co Chair Warren Berg on Monday, "we can't support a load like that."

Secondly, H CARE feels the school is over–hyping the health and safety issues surrounding the middle school.

H CARE Co Chair Warren Berg says the group believes reasonable repairs could be made that would fix issues, like mold and standing water, while saving money.

"I do get a little bit incensed about this because if they're promoting this—that the mold in the school is a problem—it's a red herring right now," said Berg.

H CARE has released figures they say are a more accurate reflection of the projected real estate tax impact the plan would have.

For a home worth $200,000, both sides of the debate agree that year one's annual tax increase would be $380.

But H CARE's figures rise to $610 by the plan's 25th year—numbers referendum supporters say are inflated, and misleading.

Dan Urshan, former Hermantown Mayor and current Finance Chair of the Citizen Advisory Committee that worked on the plan, says everything about H CARE's figures is wrong.

"This is a flyer that they've been putting out there to the public. It says $49.8 million. Well, it's $48.9 million," said Urshan, holidng the flier and pointing at the figures, "and that might seem like a small thing, but to me it just shows that this is not a factual type of campaign."

Plan supporter Natalie Peterson agrees, adding the figures presented by "Hawk Pride" and the district, by law, have to be accurate.

"That financial information, again, has been approved by the state. So, the numbers that are being provided are 100% accurate," said Peterson standing inside the middle school. "Please don't be confused by somebody's read on what is accurate."

While some plan supporters have been worried about the possibility of H CARE hiring a controversial outside consultant in an effort to defeat the referendum at the polls, Berg says that's not in the plans right now.

In response to the numbers released by H CARE, the Saint Louis County Auditor's office says the 2014 tax year is the only known figure by St. Louis County.

They added that they "could not provide him with future years tax bases as this information is unknown. Any claim(s) that projected future tax payments have been calculated by and certified by the St. Louis County Auditor's office are inaccurate at best and purposely misleading, at worst."

FOR MORE ON HERMANTOWN SCHOOL PLAN:

Hermantown Chamber of Commerce backs school plan

Hawk Pride voices plan to Hermantown business community

MN Dept. of Edu. approves Hermantown Plan

Billy Wagness

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