During my eight years on the School Board I was convinced that there was so much overlap between the three local governments – City, County, School Board – that there should be more cooperation between them. There was some intercommunication but frankly, turf protection was a powerful obstacle.
I think we are overdue for some sort of more formalized integration, especially where the raising of taxes is concerned. Therefore I took note last legislative session when Gov. Pawlenty insisted on putting a temporary 3.9% cap on increases in local levies. This cap was not directed at school districts.
I hadn’t paid close enough attention to it to know the precise details. Did it refer to Cities or counties or both? So, last spring I called a city councilor and asked him about it. He seemed unaware of the law and the new Ness administration had yet to bring the subject up with the City Council.
Well, finally the Trib has written a story about the bind the City is in. The law is a ham handed and clumsy way to end complaints that state cut backs are driving increases in local property taxes. Governor Pawlenty can be accused of insisting on the cap on but Senator Tom Bakk, the State Senate’s Tax Committee chair, went along with it as did the rest of the DFL dominated legislature.
The City desperately needs money (in my opinion) and its having to resort to painful but pragmatic budget cuts. Meanwhile the Duluth School Board raised its taxes by 56% to begin the Red Plan. It still has another third of the Red Plan costs ($90 million dollars worth) to levy for the Red Plan. Now the District is asking for another round of tax increases for operational spending. The Schools are running amok while the City has fallen into a fiscal pothole.
If ever there was a time to give some joint city, county, school district commission authority to regulate the taxing and spending authority of the three entities this is it.