JCI’s dire warning all smoke

Build our schools or you will die………another funny JCI joke. From the Timberjay.

It’s an extraordinary improvement over the estimated $2.78 million budget gap for the same school year that district consultants, working under a contract with Johnson Controls, had developed two years ago. Those projections, which had estimated the district would enter statutory operating debt by next June, formed the basis for the school district’s campaign to win passage of a $78.8 million bond measure.

a million a second for each second of the cosmos’s 14 billion years

Forget counting grains of sand. Count the stars.

“In his 1988 book Coming of Age in the Milky Way, the science writer Timothy Ferris supposed there were so many stars that to spend one second contemplating each star in creation would require as long as the universe has existed. The star count has shot up so much just since 1988 that at 200 sextillion, you would need to contemplate a million stars per second, for as long as the cosmos has been here, to contemplate them all.”

“A pretty nice problem”

Today’s story about ISD 709’S mid-year budgetary fixes prompted a friend to email me this little bit of twaddle from the Trib’s Editorial Board.

Published July 23, 2010

Our view: Duluth School Board has mighty nice problem

What would you do with an extra $32 million? Duluth School Board members will soon be grappling with that question as school construction and reconstruction rolls on, ahead of schedule and well under budget.

The school district’s $296 million Long-Range Facilities Plan included an $11 million contingency fund to cover change orders and unforeseen expenses. Setting aside less than 4 percent of total costs was fiscally responsible and just good planning. But it’s starting to look like the district won’t have to tap into the fund, meaning the money will be available.

Also available are $21 million in construction and other savings realized when bonds were able to be sold so cheaply, when Duluth’s tax capacity grew more rapidly than projected and when construction bids came in lower than anticipated, a direct result of a struggling economy and contractors’ desire for work.

“The board now has all kinds of flexibility,” Superintendent Keith Dixon said in an interview with the News Tribune Opinion page. “The board couldn’t be in a stronger position.” The message is you get great buildings and you’re in a great financial position.”

The board’s options for its unexpected $32 million include reinvesting the money and paying off bonds sooner, an attractive, responsible choice even if not a sexy one.

But the board also could stand pat with work already started and already planned and use the money to reduce the tax increase district residents are bearing to help pay for the facilities overhaul. That tax increase was $110 a year on the average-sized home, with $3 annual increases. Few district residents would balk at a reduction in their tax bills.

Or board members could do more work, up to $32 million of additional construction to add features and amenities not in the original designs or plans. Board members already have poured about $25 million of savings back into the schools, to the delight and thanks of teachers, students and others across the district. The additions have included eight-lane pools instead of six-lane pools in the two middle schools, a new boiler and playground at Lakewood Elementary and a media center twice as large as originally conceived at Homecroft Elementary, to name just a few examples. The district has a complete list of “value-added benefits,” as Dixon called additional improvements to Duluth ‘s schools.

School Board members could even pour some of the $32 million into learning initiatives and classroom programming since some of the $32 million is from operational savings. That’s perhaps the most attractive and responsible choice of all.

“I think it’s going to be a mix of all of those things,” Dixon said. The trick will be to determine what will be most popular, both politically and practically.

So, what do you think? What should the School Board do with its unexpected $32 million? Let your School Board members know directly. Or drop a line to letters@duluthnews.com and we’ll publish your ideas in an upcoming edition.

No reason to let the School Board decide on its own what to do with an extra $32 million.

The most interesting sentence in the Budget story is this one:

Members Judy Seliga-Punyko, Art Johnston and Gary Glass voted against the measure.

And the band played Waltzing Matilda

I think I heard Joan Baez’s version of this song a long time ago and found it less than memorable. I found this version by the Australian countrywestern-style singer Slim Dusty very moving. The vintage photos montage looks just like the set pieces for the Movie Galipoli which I saw a second time recently. Its all part of my studying up on Down Under where I will be spending next March.

Fair like a Fox

A riposte with teeth.

A couple thoughts.

Fox News isn’t the same as Fox punditry, not that its all that great. There’s a guy named “Shep” that I rather like.

Rush Limbaugh, the 900 lb. gorilla of “conservative” punditry, doesn’t work for Fox.

I concluded that Limbaugh burned up good brain cells well over ten years ago when I bought a book of his in which he offered a great many historical judgements that demonstrated such silliness that I stopped reading after about three chapters.

You never really lose brain cells by reading dreck you just don’t put them to very good use.

I lost a lot of respect for Limbaugh when he flopped on a television program where critics could actually ask him tough questions and he proved unequal to the task of answering them. When I see the Fox pundits kowtow to him I’m not impressed.

Liberals have their own brain diminishing rhetoric.

I saw a little historical piece a few weeks ago on Abby Hoffman one of the Hippie Era’s great air heads. Apparently Abby got up at Woodstock during one band’s performance and began haranguing the crowd. He irritated the hell out of the band which lost no time in telling him to stuff it and he was off the stage instantly. Limbaugh is smart enough to have his own stage and audience and screeners to monitor the call ins.

Dumb like a Fox

I always said listening to Limbaugh burned out brain cells. Fox is just as bad.

Those who watched Fox News almost daily were significantly more likely than those who never watched it to believe that:

most economists estimate the stimulus caused job losses (12 points more likely)

the economy is getting worse (26 points)

the stimulus legislation did not include any tax cuts (14 points)

their own income taxes have gone up (14 points)

the auto bailout only occurred under Obama (13 points)

when TARP came up for a vote most Republicans opposed it (12 points)

and that it is not clear that Obama was born in the United States (31 points)

Middle Schools phenomenon

I just heard about this site on NPR this morning. When I saw an example of its use I decided to try it myself. I wondered how often the term “middle schools” was found in all the English language books that google has turned into data. As I suspected Middle Schools are going out of fashion. Except in Duluth.

middle school term use