Duluth School Board may ask voters for more money

/ 17 April 2012 / jennifer

Jana Hollingsworth, Duluth News Tribune, April 17, 2012 –

The Duluth School Board probably will ask voters to approve an operating levy again this fall, a year after voters rejected all three levels of a multi-tiered proposal last fall.

The board will vote next week on moving forward with a 2012 levy referendum, and only one member has expressed opposition. Board members discussed the referendum at a meeting of the business committee Monday night. While the ballot details haven’t been set, the community group Duluth for Education has asked that the board take a stand early as it goes forward to seek support for the levy.

“I think it’s important that we do this, that we say we are going to,” said member Judy Seliga Punyko.

Although the vote next week won’t include a specific monetary amount, member Bill Westholm wanted to make sure the district puts forth a request less confusing than last fall’s three tiers of questions, two of which failed by wide margins.

Member Art Johnston said he wouldn’t support an operating levy of any amount unless the board agrees to decrease the amount of money it transfers annually from the general fund to pay off Red Plan debt. The transfer, part of the Red Plan’s financial structure, comes from a designated fund within the general fund made up of rebates, savings from school closures and property sales. The amount transferred is meant to keep taxes within the promised range and varies each year, but is expected to decrease over time. To lessen the amount transferred to the Red Plan would raise taxes, district officials have said.

Johnston said he plans to propose a resolution Tuesday to limit the transfer to $3 million a year. He maintains that the move takes money directly from educational use. The district has said the money wouldn’t exist without the Red Plan, as the money is derived directly from savings realized from it.

“I will support (the operating levy) if the board stops pulling money out of the general fund,” Johnston said.