A couple weeks ago a reporter for the Minneapolis Star Tribune was in town interviewing people for a story about the Red Plan. At first she told us it would be in last Sunday’s paper. It wasn’t. I just checked online and it doesn’t seem to be in this Sunday’s paper either. Maybe it won’t appear at all. I took a few moments to send her some additional information in an email should she see fit to add it to the eventual story. Here’s what I wrote to her.
We found out last week just how much more we can expect our property taxes to go up because of the Red Plan. So far St. Louis County is only levying 46% of the $407 million cost of the Red Plan. The public will not be happy when, not if, the other 54% is levied.
This is now being treated with kid gloves by the Superintendent who has his allies saying that he’d like to make a “deal” with the citizens. This is the deal. The District will only raise taxes by $125 million. (He’s not counting interest) Of course, the whole plan will cost $407 million so we have been scratching our heads trying to figure out what he means.
What Dr. Dixon is suggesting is preposterous. He is saying that this Board will guarantee that the $11 million additional annual costs of the plan (including interest) over the next twenty years will come not from further increases in the local property tax but from the school operations budget. The Red Plan supporters have been claiming that school operations will save $5.3 million annually but that’s less than half of the increased $11 million annual cost.
So, beyond the reported $5.3 million savings (and I maintain that only about a third of it is savings the rest being staff cuts) future school boards will have to cut an additional $6.7 million from school operations to pay for the Red Plan every year for the next twenty years. Dixon may be able to guarantee that his supine school board will do this while he’s still around to mesmerize them but there will be nine more elections over the next 19 years of the Red Plan and he will have no authority to reach into the future to force those school boards to do the same thing. Oh, they will have to pay for the Red Plan but by doing it Dixon’s way they will cripple the school system.
The 46% of the Red Plan costs that is already being levied against Duluth district voters is $9.6 million a year. That includes interest payments and over twenty years it will total $192 million dollars. The 54% which has yet to be levied will be $11 million a year more and it too includes interest payments. Over twenty years the $11 million increase will add up to $220 million dollars. Dixon is promising that this $220 million will not actually be levied against the taxpayers because it will all be taken out of school operations. Together the $9.6 million already being levied and the $11 million add up to $412 million. I’ve rounded out these numbers so they are off by a couple million at the end. The District’s finance people originally sent in their cost estimates to the State Dept of Education which showed the costs of the Red Plan to be $437 million. This calculation is on page 79 of their proposal for the State’s review and comment. Some months later they announced that they had figured out how to structure the debt so that they could save $30 million thereby reducing the total cost to $407 million. The figures I’ve just given you are off of this by five million dollars.
The property tax information I’ve just outlined came from Donald Dicklich the St. Louis County Auditor.
The “promise” that Dixon has made can’t be kept. The school staff is already nervous about this year’s cuts. The promise guarantees future annual cuts of an even more draconian nature. Such is the promise of the Red Plan.
The School Board got its first bids in for the first two summer projects last week. They came in a few thousand dollars below initial estimates. There is rejoicing in the Administration. Its a little like a couple of chipmunks running out on the highway to grab an acorn and giving themselves high fives for their accomplishment a few seconds before they are flattened by a truck.