Tuesday, March 18th at , exercise your right to address your
School Board and tell them that they should never have denied us our right to:
While you are there you might tell the Board some of these
things which four board members seemed determined not to hear:
Red Plan is ill conceived:
$293 million the Red Plan is the most expensive school building plan in
of it is unnecessary. After a public outcry to maintain our schools in 1989
the Duluth School Board listened and began spending $2 million a year for
that purpose. Over the last fifteen years $30 million has been spent to
maintain the buildings. Our schools may be old, but the education that goes
on within them is some of the finest in the nation.
2003, current Board Chair, Nancy Nilsen, made the School Board promise to
keep three high schools until the high school population dropped below 2,800
students. Today the high school population is 563 more than 2,800 and is not
expected to drop below the 2,800 level.
Engineer, Art Johnston, analyzed Johnson Control’s figures and discovered
that while it would cost $12.7 million to fix Central, the school
district’s newest high school, their Red Plan would close Central and
spend $56 million to enlarge three other schools to accommodate Central’s
is the most valuable school in
worth an estimated $30 million to the district. It may be sold for $10
million. With 77 acres it is the only high school with enough room to meet
standards for proper acreage.
have been told that the district needs to save money by eliminating 25%
overcapacity but even after spending $293 million the Red Plan leaves the
district at 12% overcapacity.
than improving efficiency, $3
million of a much advertised $5 million in annual savings will be gained
through staff cuts not improved efficiency. Instead of saving $100 million
for efficiency over the next twenty years, we will only save $30 million.
That’s one dollar saved for every thirteen dollars spent on the Red Plan.
after spending all this money, Superintendent Dixon has explained that our
thirteen new and “like new” schools will not be “Cadillac’s” but
Red Plan’s OrdeanHigh
School site is inadequate.
Ordean High will
burst at the seams with 1,500 high school students; an enrollment that triples
Ordean’s 600 junior high students. Many of these students will be licensed
drivers increasing the parking needs.
planning professionals in our area warned Johnson Controls that the Red
Plan’s parking lot on the tiny, 26 acre, Ordean site could only fit 250 cars.
It needs parking for about 950 cars. A JCI engineer explained that the site
would be “duluthisized.” The latest plan can handle 440 cars, less than half
of what’s needed.
Ordean will need
enough roadway to allow hundreds of vehicles to enter, exit, and park
simultaneously. JCI’s plan has a single entrance/exit and a truncated, U-turn,
bus lane which will create a parking, pick-up, drop-off, and safety nightmare.
Red Plan ignores statutory intent and reasonable alternatives.
school district has the authority to levy up to $500,000 without holding
elections for building projects which insure student safety. The Red Plan
will levy $407 million (814 times more) without a referendum. See MN Statute
school districts have the specific statutory authority to offer building
bonds without holding elections but they are held to strict
limits. Minneapolis is one. It is allowed to levy $15 million in a calendar
year. See MN Statute 128.11. However, Minneapolis has 40,000 students, four
times more than Duluth. If Duluth was held to the same per-student spending
limit as Minneapolis, the Red Plan would be limited to $3.75 million a year
or $75 million total. This is far less than the current projected cost of
$407 million for Red Plan.
are several cost effective ways for the
to eliminate its overcapacity and fix buildings. Instead, JCI and the School
Board showed us three options that each cost over a quarter-billion dollars. Without
a referendum we really have no choice.
Controls Inc. is the wrong company to oversee the Red Plan:
is a heating and air quality firm which owes its primary allegiance to its
stock holders not the voters of
could hire its own project manager for a fraction of the cost.
contract gives it no incentive to offer a smaller spending plan.
estimates of JCI’s earnings from the Red Plan put it at 13% or nearly $38
million although the
has claimed that JCI will only earn $4.5 million.
was working with the Duluth School Board long before it sent out bids for
project management and Dr. Dixon originally wanted to give them the work
without bidding it out.
hired architects and engineers who were not licensed to practice in the
state to evaluate our schools. There is little evidence of the 10,000 hours
they spent analyzing them. JCI will make subcontractors accountable to JCI
not to the
outraged local architect, Robert Aho, had this to say about a bid JCI sent
him to work on the Red Plan: “What the school district is doing. . . is
exactly backwards. They hired the Contractor to tell them what he thinks
should be built, and then the Contractor is hiring the Architects to
represent him and justify what he wants. In this scenario, the
Contractor would be allowed to charge whatever he wants, provide less than
was agreed upon, and attribute virtually anything to change orders--
essentially being given the green light to increase the scope of the project
to any dollar amount he chooses.”
resistance to outside advice has resulted in many unpleasant surprises. The
state turned down two of the building proposals in the Red Plan. The State
extended its deadline to approve the plan by two weeks rather than expedite
it as the District requested. JCI failed to anticipate the state’s order
to expand the Ordean site. It failed to alert homeowners that eminent domain
would engulf 41 properties. It failed to anticipate that it would have to
acquire federally protected eagle habitat. It failed to address Ordean’s
parking, traffic and safety needs. There is no provision to protect the much
smaller Ordean neighborhood from suffering from the same chronic student
parking woes that afflict the Denfeld neighborhood.
Duluth is the
wrong place for a bloated school building plan:
is the third poorest city in
with a high percentage of residents on fixed incomes. Considering that most
of its schools are in reasonably good repair while its sewers and streets
and retiree health insurance benefits are major financial obligations,
should not undertake the Red Plan.
Red Plan has already increased school taxes by an average of 56% this year.
Red Plan puts classroom financing at risk.
’s School Board can apparently implement the Red Plan without a vote, it
can’t raise money for the classroom without voter approval. This November the
will need to ask voters to renew and increase a 2003 levy which funds classroom
resources, teachers, and educational programs. If it fails because of anger over
the Red Plan, $5 million a year will be stripped away from our classrooms
leading to teacher layoffs and more crowded classrooms. This levy is far more
important than the Red Plan.
Dixon’s troubling record in Faribault is a
Dr. Dixon was
superintendent of the Faribault Schools when angry voters turned down two
referendums for classroom spending after he completed a major building program.
They voted against both levies even though
warned that their defeat would damage the
schools. (He’s now doing the same thing in
’s schools failed to achieve
’s expectations for adequate progress. During
’s 2003 school board election three candidates campaigned to replace
. They were all elected.
Red Plan cheats us out of our voice and right to vote.
Pawlenty insisted that
voters had the right to vote on the $37 million tax increase for the
proposed DECC expansion. The Red Plan is ten times bigger.
one community member criticized the Red Plan at a school board meeting the
Chairman of the School Board told her to “shut up and sit down.”
how to say “No” to the Red Plan.
Because of the accidental power given to our school board by
’s school finance laws, no referendum can force the Board to do the public’s
will. That’s why Let Duluth Vote is offering a compromise. It maintains
. It keeps more neighborhood schools open. It brings all our schools up to state
standards. Finally, our alternative costs $100 million less (one third less)
than the Red Plan.
school board members tell us that everyone they talk to supports the Red
Plan. If you disagree you need to attend the next School board meeting on
March 18th and set the record straight.
Brenda at 390-7768 and we will mail you petitions to sign and circulate.
School Board Chair Nancy Nilsen at:
215 N 1st Ave E.
Vote’s next meeting at the Duluth Heights Community Club,
Thursday, March 13th at
and or visit: www.letduluthvote.com
us keep your taxes down. Mail a portion of your 56% school tax increase to Let
Duluth Vote at: Treasurer Let Duluth Vote 2610 E 3rd. St. Duluth, MN 55812
for by Let Duluth
Vote, Treasurer, 2610 E. 3rd St., Duluth, MN55812
If you care
about Duluth and
don't put your faith in the Duluth News
The last word on the Red Plan can be found on Harry Welty's blog: www.lincolndemocrat.com And if you're looking for some
particular piece of information use the blog's search function.
You never can tell what you'll find.