Monday, Feb,2nd 2002

Julio's Triumph

Dear Political Diary,

Norm Coleman flew to Duluth today to announce his campaign for the Senate.  I suppose I should have showed up since I'll be parading through the Republican precinct caucuses next month for my own campaign. I must let the faithful know I'm raring to go. A higher calling kept me sidelined. I had turn in a column for the Northland Reader today. It was done by lunch and emailed it to Bob Boone hoping that he was so desperate that he'd have to accept it. I suggested he call my column "Not Eudora."

By two o'clock I was able to dive into the school board's weekly packet and read the agenda for the Human Resources and Business Committees. The most interesting thing I noted was a recommendation to hire an outside accounting firm to audit our budget even though it was a higher bid than a local firm had made. I made a note to ask about it. I needn't have worried. Bob Mars was first to raise it. He can always be counted on to stick up for local bidders.

I was sympathetic. The ratings of the committee were close and our budget is tight. Four of us asked some hard questions about the choice. I wouldn't be surprised if we made a different decision in two weeks. 

Because we are having the Committee of the Whole meeting tomorrow night we had all three standing committees meet tonight at Pati Rolf's suggestion. We were at the Board Room until seven.

HR was a  piece of cake as usual and Business wasn't too long except for the discussion about the accounting bids. It was Education that took the cake. We ended up discussing the controversial six period day and what courses students would need to get into college. For years the Duluth School District has forced students to take far more classes than they needed for admittance to get into most colleges including our own UMD. Although its a painful decision it won't hurt our students.

I stayed through the meeting and chatted with Julio afterward. He told me I owed him fifty cents on our most recent bet that we would never negotiate a 403-B retirement plan. Fortunately, I lost. He'd gotten an agreement with the teachers to accept our offer and the teachers had voted for it by a huge majority.

This is the best news we've had since I've been on the Board and no one will notice. Its as good as the ability we'd won in negotiations to bid out our insurance. What's more our teachers will mostly be better off for it. 

At the present we have to dig millions of dollars out of our operating expenses every year to give our senior teacher close to one and a half times their average annual income for their last five years. With so many senior teachers retiring its killing us. We will soon be able to give our teachers a 403b plan which they will also be able to contribute to and reap considerable tax savings while earning interest income. Over the course of the next decade this will save us from ruinous out of pocket retirement costs. 

No one on previous Boards was willing to push for this because they were afraid the initial costs were prohibitive and besides our teachers didn't trust us. We will all be better off and future Boards will be indebted to us for sparing them although they will have no idea what we've done for them. I give Julio all the credit for pulling this coup off.

I forgive him for all our policy differences but it won't stop me from giving him more gray hair. Who knows, he may even have a few more rabbits up his sleeve. 

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