I paid close attention last week when our Supertintendent informed four school board candidates that the Governor has no veto over our proposed bonding plan. Apparently, Dr. Dixon is wrong.
Having yet to hear from anyone about my recent letter to the Governor I called Alice Seagren’s office just now. The Education Commissioner was not in but I was transfered to the Department’s Director of Program Finance, Tom Melcher.
According to Tim our Supt. and Johnson Controls met a few weeks back with the Commissioner and some of her staff to outline their ambitious plans and to lay out their rationale for proceeding. This was informal and the Superintendent told us last week that the official presentation to the Education Department will take about two months to prepare. That would put the presentation at the beginning of September.
Tom explained that the State would have 60 days to review the proposal. That could put the decision off until the beginning of November just a week before the general election.
Tom carefully avoided taking sides. He allowed as how the plan was complicated relying of various provisions of state law to justify various methods of raising money. He did not disagree with me when I commented that whatever the justifications the money would all be raised from local property taxes. He did say that in some cases it seemed that the Duluth project was depending more on the letter-of-the-law than the spirit-of-the-law. I gathered that the issue of desegregation funds was one such question. The law is not so clear on whether Cities of the First Class have to abide by some of the deseg laws that apply to all other school districts.
Since Duluth has three “magnet schools” to desegregate our schools and since the Red plan seems to put an end to our magnet schools its hard for me to see how we would be in compliance with the laws which encourage intgregation. I can’t help but wonder if closing our magnets would cost Duluth its desegregation funding from the state.
Some provisions of Minnesota law allow for bonding for deferred maintenence for things like leaky roofs but not for adding new wings to schools. Since this plan envisions new wings and even new buildings it will be interesting to see to what extent the state will allow us to spend money on new construction.
The bottom line for me was Tom’s quick explanation of the consequences of the State’s review and comment. The state can approve the proposal outright. It can offer a unfavorable review which would require additional changes in the Duluth plan. It can offer a negative review of the project which effectively kills it. So, to all intents and purposes the state can veto the project, at least as it currently stands.
One last thing. I asked Tom, who is quite familiar with the quarter-billion-dollar price tag for this plan, if he could recall the record for a bond referendum in the state. He thought it was somewhere over a hundred million dollars. He pointed out that it came with a referendum. Ours, of course, does not.