West Bend School Budget Protest, “”Go ahead: Raise my taxes” and More

Vodpod videos no longer available.Video from WITI -Fox 6

You got to love it, students in conservative West Bend out marching against school budget cuts.  These kids are great; watch the video!

This is just one of many good things being done and said as that community deals with the impact of 15 years under a state school funding system designed to fail, capped off by a state budget that seems to have accelerating that failure as a goal.  The situation might be desperate, but the need for comprehensive reform message is making some progress.  The pieces are all there, all that is missing is directing the anger and frustration at the correct target — our state elected officials.

In September the estimates were that the revenue limit for West Bend would allow for a 12.1% property tax increase to partially make up for$2,4 million of cuts in state aid.  Over 700 people attended the annual meeting a week earlier (video at the link) —   the teabaggers were out again.

Local blogger Kristina had a great response, here is part of it.

To all the proud, No voters at the last school board meeting. How proud you must be. No band or orchestra in 6th grade, no band lessons in high school, higher athletic fees, loss of teachers and aides, cutting librarians, program support teachers, gifted and talented teacher cuts at all levels, increase in class sizes 35 – 40 and mandatory one additional class to be taught, getting rid of 1 east and west teacher and replace them with an aide. Wait let’s not forget counseling services, school social workers, athletic directors, dean of students at McLane, possibly eliminating a principal position at elementary level, all gone without a tax levy.

Hang on there’s more beautiful things the no’s I am sure are proud to stand behind. The elimination of business and technology departments and all classes go too. Middle school exploratories, world culture and tech ed. Elementary fitness, which the no’s can scream about childhood obesity and laziness of our youth but still use TV and video games as babysitters. Makes sense right? Sure, sarcasm was needed there….

Stop thinking about this as what this levy would do to you, and ask yourself what it would do to all the kids. Is $100.00 bucks or so a year worth under educating them? No! Take the 10 bucks a month you spend on fast food, coffee, case of soda, or something and set it aside at the end of the year you will be up $200.00 bucks.

The district did not set out secretly planning ways to ‘get’ the taxpayers. The district was put in this mess by the state cutting their funds without telling them before this year’s budget had to be completed. Pat Herdrich or any other school official is not trying to screw anyone or squeeze more money out of people to spend on extra candy vending machines or so the admin and teachers can give themselves all raises and fly to Europe for fun. They are asking for it so classes are not cut, teachers let go, and in the end, the students are the ones left with the consequences. This is defiantly a NEED not a WANT.

At an October 5th workshop meeting,  the Board approved $300,000 in cuts, which along with some new numbers from the state brought the proposed levy increase down to 9% with a mil rate of 7.44.

Some good community education happened at this meeting.

At least a couple residents looking on changed their views, saying no cuts were needed, after hearing the history, state limitations and politics involved.

“I changed my mind,” said Doug Rakowski at the end of the nearly 4-hour session that was closed to public comments. “I will get up at the next meeting and support this.”

He cited the state budget conditions that are expected to negatively affect the West Bend district in the future.

And from a later story:

To keep previous budgets in check during a time of state revenue caps, the district has made cuts for the past 15 years, often in areas such as maintenance and supplies, administrators say. Consequently, salaries have taken up a larger percentage of the budget.

With state aid projected to tighten in the next three years, the focus for the next round of cuts will be on programs and staff..

The top five prioritized cuts for 2010-2011: $300,000 in athletics by having one high school, $134,000 by closing the pool, $206,000 by eliminating 2.8 social workers, $50,000 by eliminating three elementary head custodians and $75,000 by reclassifying custodians.

The biggest cuts appear to off the table for now, but  like many other districts, 2010-11 is looking worse:

[West Bend School District Superintendent Pat] Herdrich said that the state aid formula and biennial budget that favors high-spending districts will have West Bend, with the lowest levy rate in Southeastern Wisconsin, facing double-digit increases in 2010-11. If the district is not near its revenue cap this year, it might face a 17 percent increase next year to maintain current programs, she said.

“How deep do you want the cuts to be next year?” she asked the seven board members. “Where you leave off is where you start for next year.”

The October 12 meeting also brought out the students in the video at the top and other school supporters, quoted in this report from TMJ4 – Milwaukee as saying “Go ahead: Raise my taxes.”

A Support West Bend Schools group is now active.

More new numbers from the state all but eliminated the progress toward a lower limit made at the October 6 meeting.

Now it appears the choices on Monday, October 26 final Budget and Levy meeting will range between a 9.0% increase and a 10.9% levy increases.  The 10.9 increase is the maximum allowed based on the final revenue limit calculations from the state.

Like many districts around Wisconsin, West Bend may not be taxing to the max this year.

A 9% increase would now mean $586,523 in new cuts.  The administration is recommending a 10.9% increase and a 7.47 mil rate.

The meeting has been moved to the Field House, which seats 3,400 and 90 minutes has been set aside for public testimony.  It should be an interesting meeting.

That’s great for those of us who study school politics and/or consider them a spectator sport.  It isn’t great for the community, the School Board or the students.

It is clear from what is happening in West Bend and elsewhere that comprehensive reform and balanced, sustainable revenues are needed.  The Wisconsin Alliance for Excellent Schools proposal for a Pennies for Kids small sales tax dedicated to education would get us out this revenue crisis and make reforms — such as those of the School Finance Network possible.

If the people of West Bend don’t want to go through this next year and the year after (and the year after…), they getting involved in these campaigns and work to convince their legislators that this can and must be done.

Thomas J. Mertz

1 Comment

Filed under "education finance", Budget, education, finance, Local News, Pennies for Kids, School Finance, Take Action, Uncategorized

One response to “West Bend School Budget Protest, “”Go ahead: Raise my taxes” and More

  1. I just got a private communication that the 10.9% levy increase was approved. As I’ve said before, the shit of educational investments in Wisconsin to the property taxes is bad; but the positive vote supporting education is good for the students.

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