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On Tuesday, March 18th at 6:30 , exercise your right to address your School Board and tell them that they should never have denied us our right to:

Let Duluth Vote!

While you are there you might tell the Board some of these things which four board members seemed determined not to hear:

The Red Plan is ill conceived:

  • At $293 million the Red Plan is the most expensive school building plan in Minnesota history.
  • Much 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.
  • In 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.
  • Civil 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 displaced students.
  • Central is the most valuable school in Duluth 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 Minnesota standards for proper acreage.
  • We 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.
  • Rather 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.
  • Even after spending all this money, Superintendent Dixon has explained that our thirteen new and “like new” schools will not be “Cadillac’s” but only “Chevies.”

The Red Plan’s Ordean High 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.

Design and 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.

The Red Plan ignores statutory intent and reasonable alternatives.

  • Every Minnesota 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 123B.59.
  • Only two Minnesota 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.
  • There are several cost effective ways for the School District 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.

Johnson Controls Inc. is the wrong company to oversee the Red Plan:

  • JCI is a heating and air quality firm which owes its primary allegiance to its stock holders not the voters of Duluth . The Duluth School District could hire its own project manager for a fraction of the cost.
  • JCI’s contract gives it no incentive to offer a smaller spending plan.
  • Some estimates of JCI’s earnings from the Red Plan put it at 13% or nearly $38 million although the School District has claimed that JCI will only earn $4.5 million.
  • JCI 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.
  • JCI 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 Duluth School District .
  • An 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.”
  • JCI’s 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:

  • Duluth is the third poorest city in Minnesota 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, Duluth should not undertake the Red Plan.
  • The Red Plan has already increased school taxes by an average of 56% this year.

The Red Plan puts classroom financing at risk.

While Duluth ’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 School District 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.

Dr. Dixon’s troubling record in Faribault is a warning sign.

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 Dixon warned that their defeat would damage the Faribault schools. (He’s now doing the same thing in Duluth ) Consequently, Faribault ’s schools failed to achieve Minnesota ’s expectations for adequate progress. During Faribault ’s 2003 school board election three candidates campaigned to replace Dixon . They were all elected.

The Red Plan cheats us out of our voice and right to vote.

  • Governor Pawlenty insisted that Duluth voters had the right to vote on the $37 million tax increase for the proposed DECC expansion. The Red Plan is ten times bigger.
  • When 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.”

Here’s how to say “No” to the Red Plan.

  Because of the accidental power given to our school board by Minnesota ’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 Central High School . 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.

  • Four 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.
  • Call Brenda at 390-7768 and we will mail you petitions to sign and circulate.
  • Write School Board Chair Nancy Nilsen at: 215 N 1st Ave E. , Duluth , MN 55802 .
  • Attend Let Duluth Vote’s next meeting at the Duluth Heights Community Club, Thursday, March 13th at 6:30 and or visit:
  • Help us keep your taxes down. Mail a portion of your 56% school tax increase to Let Duluth Vote at:           
                                                                Let Duluth Vote
                                                                2610 E 3rd.
    Duluth , MN  55812

Paid for by Let Duluth Vote, Treasurer, 2610 E. 3rd St. , Duluth , MN 55812

If you care about Duluth and its schools 
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