Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) - The combined passage of both of the Duluth school district's operating levies Tuesday night means a total of $7.3 million—$2.9 million of which is either new money or additional state aid—will find its way into ISD–709's hallways and classrooms in the coming years.
The property tax hike the five–year levy will bring with it varies, and goes into effect in 2014.
"We'll be able to reduce class sizes, work toward closing the achievement gap and raising the graduation rate, and replacing some of our old, outdated curriculum materials," said a very excited Superintendent Bill Gronseth, of ISD 709.
Whereas Duluth voters shot down a three–part 2011 levy, Gronseth says this year's results were proof of Northlanders' commitment to tackling the district's issues head on.
"I think last night was a celebration of our community coming out and saying, 'we do support education in Duluth,'" said Gronseth.
Duluth School Board–elect Harry Welty, who supports the levies, says it's now up to the board to fulfill its duty of successful and cost–effective implementation of taxpayer dollars in the long–range facilities plan, especially after the breach of district trust the multi–million dollar Red Plan created for some residents.
"We on the school board have a huge responsibility not to disappoint them," said Welty Wednesday morning. "They expect that money to be used to bring class sizes down."
In Hermantown's ISD–700, where their levy passed by a narrow 54 percent, Superintendent Brad Johnson says they'll be forming a Citizen Advisory Committee this week to determine the most cost–effective, and community–involved, ways to go forward with their $48.9 million project.
So far, that includes tearing down the old middle school and building a new high school.
"Timelines are tight," said Johnson, "we'd like to get this going as soon as possible so we have time to work on it."
The levy was supported by the Hermantown Chamber of Commerce in the name of bringing new businesses to the area through an attractive school district.
But third–generation owner of Hermantown–based Mac's Landscaping Center Patrick McDonald says he's concerned about what the tax hike means for his, and other businesses', bottom line.
"We are going to have to learn how to cut some other expense to make room for this, because this comes right off of our bottom line and we have no control over it," said McDonald as his employees hauled chicken feed to a customer's truck.
McDonald says he hopes levy supporters' promises of new businesses will come true, which will help keep property taxes down and his prices from rising.
Meanwhile, Hibbing's School District showed overwhelming support for their operating levies with a 77 percent yes vote.
Crosby – Ironton voted yes for their levy by 68 percent.
Red Lake voted yes for their capital levy by a solid 100 percent.