Voters say yes to mental health support money, reject technology funding for Duluth Schools

Duluth School leaders call referendum vote a partial win for the district.

Voters approved one of the questions on the ballot about funding for the Duluth School District.

Residents of Duluth Public School District approved the first question of a two-question referendum on Tuesday, authorizing the school district to refinance existing debt to free up $2.6 million annually to support academic and mental health support positions and expand class options for high school students.

The second question, which would have authorized a capital projects levy to provide $5.3 million annually for devices, learning technology, cybersecurity improvements and technology staff was rejected by voters.

As of Wednesday  morning, preliminary vote totals stood at 15,867 in favor and 13,205 against for Question One, and 14,431 in favor and 14,720 against for Question Two with 100% of precincts reporting.

“We are deeply grateful to our community for recognizing and supporting the needs of our students,” said Superintendent John Magas. “Refinancing this debt frees up millions of dollars over the long term that will support many of the mental health and academic supports that have been invaluable for our students post-pandemic.”

Refinancing will also guarantee that the debt gets paid off several years sooner than originally anticipated, creating additional financial stability for the district. However, the rejection of the technology levy is likely to limit how quickly the district is able to implement planned improvements for classroom technology, student and staff devices, and cybersecurity upgrades.

“Our goals to strengthen learning technology haven’t changed, but without the levy we’re going to need to roll up our sleeves to reassess our ask of the public,” said Jill Lofald, School Board Chair. “We recognize that digital tools are an important part of learning in today’s world.” 

The property tax increase to pay down the refinanced debt will go into effect beginning with taxes payable in 2024. The debt is projected to be fully paid off by 2030 at the latest.

Additional information can be found here.