11 x 12 x 20 =

After I passed out 6,000 of my fliers a potential constituent noticed a gross and elementary mathematical error I put on it. This is the letter he sent me.

Mr. Welty,

Before you leave flyers in people’s doors, perhaps you should (1) learn how to multiply and (2) learn how to read your own brochures.

First, $11 x 12 x 20 equals $2640, not your “$2240.” This would result in a total payment of $99,264,000 if I use your assumptions of 2.5 people per household and a population of 94,000. Of course, this is still WAY short of the $437 million figure you quote. But that is because you are assuming the tax payments don’t rise over the twenty year period but your own brochure says that they will by 5.5% per year did you not read this????

Because I sense you may be mathematically impaired, let me show you what the payments would look like given what your brochures say. In the first column on the next page I am taking the initial $132.00 payment and then simply multiplying by the stated increase of 5.5% each year. In the second column I am assuming what “real” payments (adjusted for inflation) would be doing. I am going to assume the current inflation rate of 2.50, so the change in real payments would be 3.0% each year (5.5 2.5).

Having done this, note that the total amount paid by each household would be $4,602.60 over the twenty year payment or a total of $423,644,400 very close the total your brochure says is required. In real terms the cost is actually less, $3,546.88 per household. These are the important numbers to be discussing.

Year Payment Real Payment
1 132.00 132.00
2 139.26 135.96
3 146.92 140.04
4 155.00 144.24
5 163.52 148.57
6 172.52 153.02
7 182.00 157.61
8 192.02 162.34
9 202.58 167.21
10 213.72 172.23
11 225.48 177.40
12 237.88 182.72
13 250.96 188.20
14 264.76 193.85
15 279.32 199.66
16 294.69 205.65
17 310.89 211.82
18 327.99 218.18
19 346.03 224.72
20 365.06 231.46
4602.60 3546.88

My point in sending you this is to point out that you are perhaps the “liar” you refer to in your statement. An initial payment of $132 per household IS ENOUGH to support this plan given the 5.5% increase. Further, since most of these payments are in the future, the real cost is actually less. Get your own facts (and math) straight before you blanket the city with misinformation.

A final point given the mathematical abilities demonstrated by both you and the school board, I would suggest an investment in our schools in access of the $437 million may well be warranted.



His letter demanded a reply and this is what I wrote CA.

Thank you Mr. A,

You are absolutely right. Your letter should have been in the Duluth News Tribune. Anyone who passes out fliers on something as important as the School District’s proposed building plan has an obligation to check their figures. I didn’t and now I have to live with the knowledge that 5,000 of my neighbors have been given evidence of my sloppiness. I immediately ceased passing out the flier upon receiving your letter.

You have missed my point, however, about the taxes being assessed to pay for the Red Plan. As you pointed out; even in your revised figures the amount of taxes being advertised is far short of the $417 million cost of the plan. That gap is made up because of the 5.5 % annual increases that are planned but which have not been advertised by the District.

I only found out about this wrinkle when I talked to the staff of the State Board of Education. I don’t think a local voter should have to go to the state to find out about the tax implications of local project. This annual increase which will ultimately triple the Red plan’s costs in its final year might not be a problem for young families whose peak earning years lie ahead of them but it will be a very different story for people on fixed incomes. Even in its first year, next year, the levy for the Duluth schools will increase by 56% over this year’s levy due to the Red Plan’s implementation.

I am enclosing my replacement flier. If you find any fault with it I’d appreciate hearing from you.


Harry Welty

About the author