Group Says Vote No, No on Duluth School Levy

Posted at: 10/23/2013 6:05 PM | Updated at: 10/23/2013 6:17 PM
By: Travis Dill
tdill@wdio.com

About a dozen Duluth residents gathered at city hall to oppose an upcoming school levy on Wednesday.

The Vote No, No Committee wants residents to vote against school funding because they said it will stretch some taxpayers too thin.

Paul King is a Duluth business owner and spoke on behalf of the group Wednesday afternoon.

“We wish there was a box that said, 'No, not right now. It's not in our budget,'” King said.

But on the ballot next month voters will be asked to support two levels of funding for the Duluth school district. Passing the first level would maintain current funding and mean no new taxes.

Approving the second level would mean a small tax increase for homeowners. If the second level is passed by voters the district said a $100,000 home would see $30 in new taxes a year and a $250,000 home would see $76 of new taxes per year.

King said that would put a burden on senior citizens and small businesses.

“When you're talking about opening a shop and paying for commercial real estate the increases in these taxes are sometimes thousands per year. You know they charge businesses at a much higher tax rate,” King said.

To replace the levy the Vote No, No Committee suggested the district could bring in revenue if it removed restrictions on the sale of Old Central High School. King also called for a pay freeze or even a 5 percent cut for district employees.

King cited old textbooks and large class sizes in the schools as proof the district has not spent effectively.

Supporters of the levy disagree with those assumptions. However John Schwetman, chair of the Stand Up for Kids Campaign, can relate to some of those issues in the district.

“I certainly have two kids in the Duluth Public Schools, and I'm very happy with the education they receive there...a little concerned about class sizes like many people are,” Schwetman said.

He said passing the levy will help reduce class sizes, and the impact on taxpayers is small.

“The average is about $4 per month per household in additional property taxes so we're really quibbling over very small amounts of money here that can make a huge difference for the kids growing up here in Duluth,” Schwetman said.

The two opposing groups have less than two weeks to win over voters. No matter how the ballots are cast students will feel the results.

The Duluth Chamber of Commerce announced support for the school levy on Tuesday. Election day is on Nov. 5.

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