Duluth School Board to consider adding technology funding referendum to November ballot

14 July 2023

DULUTH The city’s public school district wants to ask voters to help pay for investments in technology as pandemic relief funds end.

The Duluth School Board on Tuesday will vote on whether to authorize the referendum, which would place the questions on the ballot of the November 7 election.

If placed on the ballot, voters would be asked to approve the district’s capital project levy of 4.687% times the district’s net tax capacity, which is estimated to raise more than $5.29 million per year for a decade.

In a news release, the district said a “modest investment” was necessary to keep “modernized technology and supports.”

“The additional revenue from the proposed capital project levy authorization will provide funds for the acquisition, installation, replacement, support and maintenance of software, software licenses, computers, improved technology equipment, networks, infrastructure and costs of technology related personnel and training,” the proposed ballot question said.

Another question on the referendum would also ask voters to approve a bond restructuring, which the district said would “help the district provide continued programming and technology for years to come.”

Many of the technology upgrades were made with Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funding made available during the COVID-19 pandemic, but that will end after the 2023-2024 school year, the district said.

“We want to make sure we have the resources to continue with this vital work, as well as to significantly enhance programming to improve student outcomes for every student,” Superintendent John Magas said in the release.

Voters narrowly rejected a technology levy in 2018 meant to update outdated computers and other tech by a 48.7 to 51.3 percent margin.

Approved within a year of COVID-19’s initial rise in the U.S., a trio of federal laws allocated a combined $28 million to the Duluth district to help it navigate the pandemic. Administrators there have spent approximately $18 million of it so far, the News Tribune reported last month. Federal guidelines require the remaining $10 million to be spent by June 30, 2024.

School district officials have also said they hope to put proceeds from the $7.8 million sale of Central High School on the hill toward new computers and software over the next 2-4 years.


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