My Reply to George Balach

George is mostly right. He said I called myself a "liar." Its true. You can even read it in the School Board minutes. My wife charitably says that I merely changed my mind. Sure I did, but the voters expect weasly politicians to make promises, break them, and then come up with weasly excuses for doing so.  I promised that I would not vote to raise local property taxes if voters approved the 1997 excess levy referendum. The voters passed the referendum and I reneged on that promise.

This is what the School Board faced; a teacher's strike or a massive deficit. I thought we might be able to avoid the strike but no matter what we did there was no way to avoid the deficit except to beat down our teachers in a strike. That was very unlikely. However, by levying to the max we could minimize the financial shock to our schools. That is what I voted to do. So I'm a pragmatic liar. I didn't intend to lie but safeguarding the Duluth school system forced me to choose between my word or the needs of our children.

George wants everyone to understand that the teacher's contract demands much more from our school district's finances than we could afford. George is right. Since George told us that you might assume that George voted against the contract.  You would be wrong. He voted for it even though he knew we couldn't afford it.  He also voted against levying to the max.  Had this vote prevailed the Duluth School District would be facing a 3.6 million shortfall this year instead of a 1.9 million shortfall.

George is irritated that our Administration is soft pedaling the contract's fiscal impact on our finances.  I agree that this is a mistake.  Yes, enrollment declines makes our problems worse. Yes, the state legislature and the new Governor are threatening to take away supplemental money because they think that Duluth has been given kid glove treatment for too long. But the truth is that the contract settlement is the 900 pound fiscal gorilla.

George is right to express skepticism that I will be fiscally prudent in the future. There is that "lie" I told. I am part of a slim 5-4 majority on board  who have prided themselves for fiscal prudence. George has already indicated he will not run for reelection. Will a pro-spending majority take control? Only time will tell.


Contact Harry at: A1Snowman@aol.com