The disingenuous District Website

This information from the School District’s webpage explaining the need for the levy is woefully incomplete:

“Does the school district get most of its income from property taxes? No, the district gets most of its funding from the state (about 70%). When the property tax system was reformed by the state legislature in 2001, local property taxes were lowered by removing a portion of the school district levy from property tax bills. In Duluth, the local school district levy was reduced from over $23 million to $8 million per year. In 2008 the local levy continues to be lower than it was in 2001. Here’s where the money comes from:
70% State of Minnesota
16% Local property tax levy
10 % Federal Government
4% Other local sources (lunch fees, activity fees, etc.)”

REALITY CHECK – The state poured more money into schools in 2001 so property taxes could be lowered. As this says, Duluth’s school tax levy fell from $23 million in 2001 to $8 million in 2002. The Red Plan has undone this reform. From the Duluth Trib, Dec 11, 2007:

“The district is proposing to raise its levy 7.7 million, or 56%, next year, from $13.8 million in 2007 to $21.5 million in 2008.”

REALITY CHECK After the State reduced our taxes from $23 million to $8 million the Red Plan raised it again from $13.8 million to $21.5 million. And those local property tax increases will only grow. The District webpage doesn’t tell you that another third of the Red Plan has yet to be levied. In fact the District is racing to levy another $90 million to finish off the Red Plan. This means that local taxpayers will be paying far more than ever for their schools. The operational levy will add to the local tax burden. The operational levy should have been the top priority not building. Here are two news stories that followed the failure of the 2001 levy in Duluth. (seven period day) (teacher layoffs)

Here’s more from the District website:

Is the district receiving more money through local property taxes than it used to?
The district collected less in property taxes in 2008 (including costs for the Long Range Facilities Plan) than it did as recently as 2001. Even though the last few years have seen a modest increase in the amount of property tax revenue collected for schools due to the increase in property values, the district is still receiving 6% less in property taxes than it did in 2001. As property values rise, the state is reducing state aid and expecting school districts to make up the funding through increases in local property taxes. It would be truthful to say that schools are getting more funding from property taxes but because of the corresponding reductions in state aid, the overall result is another “wash” for districts.

REALITY CHECK “It would be truthful,” but it would also be highly misleading. After plunging from $21 million to $8 million the Red Plan has completely blown away the 2001 reform so that with the Red Plan the Duluth School District levy is now a mere 6% what it was before the 2001 reform. We will soon be taxed even more than we paid in 2001 to run the School District.

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