Duluth School District May Look at Referendum to Reduce Deficit

District Likely Faces a $2.3 Million Budget Shortfall

DULUTH, Minn. – The Duluth School District is facing another budget deficit. District officials are looking into how to make up that shortfall, including a possible referendum that could be on the table as early as next year.

“This is a sobering budget for us,” says school board member Harry Welty.

With the school district in the red again, cuts have to be made.

“We are doing our best to make the cuts in administration as far away from the classroom as possible,” says Welty.

Because of other recent deficits, those cuts are becoming harder to find.

“The changes that we need to make are going to impact people, whether it’s employees, whether it’s students,” says Duluth School District Chief Financial Officer Doug Hasler.

Enrollment in Duluth continues to decline.

“There’s not as many kids of school age as there was ten, fifteen, twenty years ago,” says Hasler. “We also recognize that, those kids that are here, there’s competition unlike anything we’ve seen in the past.”

So district officials are looking at other ways to get funding, which could be in the form of a referendum.

“Hopefully we can also go to the public, tell them how we have done our very best to be frugal and prudent and perhaps talk them into increasing an operational levy for our classroom expenses,” says Welty.

The district is also focused on bringing in more students.

“As we effectively communicate the great experiences and opportunities that we provide to students and to families, that ought to have a payoff for us down the road,” says Hasler.

The school district last imposed a tax levy in 2013, which is set to end in November 2018.

School district officials do not believe selling school buildings will help solve budget problems. They view that as a short-term fix that won’t address ongoing financial problems.

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