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Cloquet School Board approves 6% increase for preliminary 2023 levy

The proposed amount of $7,434,749.86 marks a 6.26% rise from last year’s levy.

Garfield School
The updated school still stands today on the same site.
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CLOQUET — The Cloquet School Board unanimously approved its preliminary 2023 levy proposal in the amount of $7.4 million at its Monday, Sept. 26, meeting. The board will vote to certify the levy at its Truth in Taxation meeting scheduled for Monday, Dec. 12, at Garfield School.

The proposal amount of $7,434,749.86 marks a $438,156.35 (6.26%) rise from last year’s levy amount. Cloquet School District Business Manager Candace Nelis shared that the levy number will likely fluctuate prior to certification in December.

The levy increase comes as a result of a less state aid due to the district’s net tax capacity and resident market value figures, according to Nelis.

Net tax capacity measures the total value of the property in the district and then takes a percentage of that property and establishes the maximum capacity that the public can be taxed, according to Superintendent Michael Cary. Resident market value measures the total market value of homes within the district boundaries.

“We’re getting less aid based on how our ... numbers came out (and) how our sales ratio kind of plays in. So we had some adjustments to all of our equalization, which means we're getting less aid,” Nelis shared.

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About $4.2 million of the levy amount will go toward debt payment expenses.

“We had some balloon payments that we restructured with our middle school debt when we sold the bonds back in 2015, and so with that we dropped last year for our debt service total payments,” Nelis said. “Then we jumped out again this year, and then next year we’ll see another drop in our payments again.”

The county's preliminary levy was approved at $32,286,408 for 2023, an increase of $2 million compared to 2022.

Cary addresses phone hoax

Superintendent Cary provided an update at Monday’s meeting regarding the false report of an active shooter at Cloquet High School, which led the shared middle and high school campus to go into lockdown Sept. 21.

According to Cary, the hoax was likely perpetrated by an individual overseas masking their phone number, and has similarities to the false bomb threat called into the district back in April.

“I don’t know that we had any confirmation that it was from the same source as the bomb threats that went around the state last spring, but it appeared that there was a lot of similarities, at least from what I heard,” Cary said.

Cary commended the Cloquet Police Department for their rapid response, and reported that he has met with Cloquet Police Chief Derek Randall to discuss courses of action should something like this happen again.

“While we very, very much appreciate their rapid response, which is exactly what we would want in a real crisis situation, we talked about whether or not there’s a way when they’re en route if they can verify the legitimacy of that call — especially if that call seems to follow the similar patterns to what these fake phone calls have,” Cary said.

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"As you can imagine, it’s a pretty jarring thing for our staff and our kids to be going about their day and suddenly seeing a bunch of armed officers come running towards the building and into the building," Cary went on to state.

Making adjustments to the district’s telecommunication system was one idea shared by Cary as a possible solution to the problem.

“If there was a way to put some controls on our telecommunication systems so that these types of false threats can’t be phoned in internationally, and especially from unverified phone numbers, that would sure go a long way," Cary said. "Because I don’t know that I see the patterns stopping if that doesn’t get closed down.”

Cary closed with a message to the public regarding the need to steer clear of the lock-down site during such an event in order to allow for first responders to gain access.

“When we have one of these threats, whether it’s fake or real, people need to stay away from the buildings,” Cary said. “I understand that the natural concern is to want to rush to make sure your loved ones are OK, but when everybody does that, it creates congestion around the school site.”

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Related Topics: CLOQUET SCHOOLS
Jake Przytarski is a reporter for the Cloquet Pine Journal covering a mix of news and sports.
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