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Madison's Proposed Property Tax Increase: Additional links, notes and emails

I received a kind email from Madison School Board President Ed Hughes earlier today regarding the proposed property tax increase associated with the 2013-2014 District budget. Ed's email:

Jim -- Your comparison to the tax rates in Middleton is a bit misleading. The Middleton-Cross Plains school district that has a mill rate that is among the lowest in Dane County. I am attaching a table (.xls file) that shows the mill rates for the Dane County school districts. As you will see, Madison's mill rate is lower than the county average, though higher than Middleton's. (Middleton has property value/student that is about 10% higher than Madison, which helps explain the difference.) The table also includes the expenses/student figures relied upon by DPI for purposes of calculating general state aid for the 2012-13 school year. You may be surprised to see that Madison's per-student expenditures as measured for these purposes is among the lowest in Dane County. Madison's cost/student expenditures went up in the recently-completed school year, for reasons I explain here: Ed
My followup email: Hi Ed: Thanks so much for taking the time to write and sending this along - including your helpful post. I appreciate and will post this information. That said, and as you surely know, "mill rate" is just one part of the tax & spending equation: 1. District spending growth driven by new programs, compensation & step increases, infinite campus, student population changes, open enrollment out/in, 2. ongoing "same service" governance, including Fund 80, 3. property tax base changes (see the great recession), 4. exempt properties (an issue in Madison) and 5. growth in other property taxes such as city, county and tech schools. Homeowners see their "total" property taxes increasing annually, despite declining to flat income. Middleton's 16% positive delta is material and not simply related to the "mill rate". Further, I continue to be surprised that the budget documents fail to include total spending. How are you evaluating this on a piecemeal basis without the topline number? - a number that seems to change every time a new document is discussed. Finally, I would not be quite as concerned with the ongoing budget spaghetti if Madison's spending were more typical for many districts along with improved reading results. We seem to be continuing the "same service" approach of spending more than most and delivering sub-par academic results for many students. (Note the recent expert review of the Madison schools Analysis: Madison School District has resources to close achievement gap.) That is the issue for our community. Best wishes, Jim Related: Middleton-Cross Plains' $91,025,771 2012-2013 approved budget (1.1mb PDF) for 6,577 students, or $13,840.01 per student, roughly 4.7% less than Madison's 2012-2013 spending.

45% (!) Increase in Madison Schools' Fund 80 Property Taxes from the 2011-2012 to 2012-2013 School Year; No Mention of Total Spending

July, 2013 Madison Schools 2013-2014 Budget Presentation (PDF). Notes:

  • No mention of total spending.... How might the Board exercise its oversight obligation without the entire picture?
  • The substantial increase in redistributed state tax dollars (due to 4K) last year is not mentioned. Rather, a bit of rhetoric: "The 2013-14 budget development process has focused on actions which begin to align MMSD resources with the Strategic Framework Priorities and strategies to manage the tax levy in light of a significant loss of state aid." In fact, according to page 6, the District expects to receive $46,392,012 in redistributed state tax dollars, which is a six (6%) increase over the funds received two years ago.
  • The District's fund equity (financial cushion, or reserves) has more than doubled in the past eight years, from $22,368,031 in 2005 to $46,943,263 in 2012.

  • Outbound open enrollment continues to grow, up 14% to 1,041 leavers in 2013 (281 inbound from other Districts).
  • There is no mention of the local tax or economic base:

  • The growth in Fund 80 (MSCR) property taxes and spending has been controversial over the years. Fund 80, up until recently was NOT subject to state imposed property tax growth limitations.
  • Matthew DeFour briefly summarizes the partial budget information here. DeFour mentions (no source referenced or linked - in 2013?) that the total 2013-2014 budget will be $391,000,000. I don't believe it:
    The January, 2012 budget document mentioned "District spending remains largely flat at $369,394,753" (2012-2013), yet the "baseline" for 2013-2014 mentions planned spending of $392,807,993 "a decrease of $70,235 or (0.02%) less than the 2012-13 Revised Budget" (around $15k/student). The District's budget generally increases throughout the school year, growing 6.3% from January, 2012 to April, 2013. Follow the District's budget changes for the past year, here.
Finally, the document includes this brief paragraph:
Work will begin on the 2014-15 early this fall. The process will be zero-based, and every line item and FTE will be carefully reviewed to ensure that resources are being used efficiently. The budget development process will also include a review of benefit programs and procurement practices, among other areas.
One hopes that programs will indeed be reviewed and efforts focused on the most urgent issues, particularly the District's disastrous reading scores. Ironically, the recent "expert review" found that Analysis: Madison School District has resources to close achievement gap. If this is the case (and I agree with their conclusion - making changes will be extraordinarily difficult), what are students, taxpayers and citizens getting for the annual tax & spending growth? I took a quick look at property taxes in Middleton and Madison on a $230,000 home. A Middleton home paid $4,648.16 in 2012 while a Madison home paid 16% more, or $5,408.38.

Wisconsin Leglislative Fiscal Bureau Budget Memo on Fund 80 and School Related Changes

Bob Lang, Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau (PDF):

COMMUNITY SERVICE LEVY (FUND 80) Prohibit a district from levying more for community service activities in 2013-14 and 2014- 15 than it did in the most recent year preceding 2013-14 in which the district levied for those activities. Provide that if a district wishes to exceed the limit on the community service levy, the school board could adopt a resolution to exceed the limit by a specified amount and submit the resolution to the electors of the district for approval. Specify that the limit otherwise applicable to the district would be increased by the amount approved by a majority of those voting on the question. Under ASA 1, a school district would be prohibited from levying more for community service activities in 2013-14 and 2014-15 than it did in 2012-13. 3. PARENTAL CHOICE PROGRAMS -- STUDENT PRIORITY Specify that under the ~xpandedchoice program outside of Milwaukee and Racine, a private school would be required to give preference to a pupil who satisfies either of the following: (a) the pupil was enrolled in a public school in the school district in the previous year and is applying to attend the school in grades 2 through 8 or 10 through 12; or (b) the pupil was not enrolled in school in the previous school year. Under current law, choice schools must select pupils on a random basis, except that they may give preference in accepting applications to siblings of pupils selected on a random basis. Under ASA 1, schools would be allowed to give preference in accepting applications to any of the following: (a) pupils who attended the school under the choice program during the school year prior to the school year for which the application is being made; (b) siblings of pupils who attended the school during the school year prior to the school year for which the application is being made and to siblings of pupils who have been accepted to the school for the school year for which the application is being made; and (c) pupils who attended another school under a parental choice program during the school year prior to the school year for which the application is being made. PARENTAL CHOICE PROGRAMS -- RELEASE OF INFORMATION Require DPI, when publicly releasing data related to, but not limited to, enrollment of, standardized test results for, applications submitted by, waiting lists for, and other information related to pupils participating in or seeking to participate in parental choice programs, to release the data all at the same time, uniformly, and completely. Provide that DPI may selectively release portions of the information specified above only to the following: (a) the school district or an individual school; and (b) an entity requesting the information for a specific participating school or the school district, provided that the entity is authorized to obtain official data releases for that school or the school district. 5. PARENTAL CHOICE PROGRAMS -- REQUIRED CREDENTIALS FOR TEACHERS Modify current law that specifies that a teacher in a choice school have a bachelor's degree, to also allow a degree or educational credential higher than a bachelor's degree, including a masters or doctorate.

Should the MPS Levy Solely Fund the Education of MPS Students?

Mike Ford:

John Gurda wrote this weekend on the Socialist roots of the Milwaukee Public School's (MPS) Department of Recreation and Community Services. The department offers sports programs, community education, and various other activities for the Milwaukee community. Gurda argues, and I agree, that Milwaukee Recreation is an asset to the city and its residents. The question I have is should it be part of MPS? I do not question the ability of MPS to run the department, just the rationale for having a program not directly related to the education of MPS students housed in the school district. Maybe the task of providing recreational opportunities for residents of Milwaukee would be better placed at the City or County. Perhaps more important, Milwaukee Recreation is funded through MPS; 4.4% of the 2011 MPS tax levy ($13.3 million) was for this department. This raises a broader question, should the MPS tax levy be used to raise funds for anything beyond educating MPS pupils? In 2011, only about 80% ($244,262,102) of the MPS levy went towards regular district operations.
Related: Madison's Fund 80.

2011-2012 $369,394,753 Madison Schools Budget update

2011-2012 Revised Budget 1.3MB PDF (Budget amendments document). District spending remains largely flat at $369,394,753, yet "Fund Equity", or the District's reserves, has increased to $48,324,862 from $22,769,831 in 2007 (page 24). The District's property tax "underlevy" (increases allowed under Wisconsin school revenue limits which are based on student population changes, successful referendums along with carve-outs such as Fund 80, among others) will be $13,084,310. It also appears that property taxes will be flat (page 19) after a significant 9% increase last year. Interestingly, MSCR spending is up 7.97% (page 28). 2011-2012 enrollment is 24,861. $369,394,753 planned expenditures results in per student spending of $14,858.40. I welcome clarifications and updates to these numbers, which are interesting. We've seen a doubling of District reserves over the past few years while spending has remained relatively flat as has enrollment. Finally, this is worth reading in light of the District's 2011-2012 numbers: Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad Advocates Additional Federal Tax Dollar Spending & Borrowing via President Obama's Proposed Jobs Bill.

Madison School District Fund 80 Community Organization Spending Report

Superintendent Dan Nerad 1.9MB PDF:

Attached is the report summarizing progress after the first year from the community organizations receiving funding from the Madison Metropolitan School District. Also attached are the full end-of-year status reports from each organization, except the Urban League; their report will be provided in August. MMSD funding is now ended for . / African-American Ethnic Academy, Inc. . / Kajsiab House ./ Urban League of Greater Madison: Project Bootstrap 21st Century Careers Program Funding, at this point, will continue for one more year for the other nine community organizations.
"Fund 80" taxes (and spending) may increase beyond State of Wisconsin school district limits. Fund 80 spending growth has long been a source of controversy.

The Madison School District = General Motors?

A provocative headline. Last Wednesday, Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman spoke to the Madison Rotary Club on "What Wisconsin's Public Education Model Needs to Learn from General Motors Before it is too late." 7MB mp3 audio (the audio quality is not great, but you can hear the talk if you turn up the volume!). Zimman's talk ranged far and wide. He discussed Wisconsin's K-12 funding formula (it is important to remember that school spending increases annually (from 1987 to 2005, spending grew by 5.10% annually in Wisconsin and 5.25% in the Madison School District), though perhaps not in areas some would prefer. "Beware of legacy practices (most of what we do every day is the maintenance of the status quo), @12:40 minutes into the talk - the very public institutions intended for student learning has become focused instead on adult employment. I say that as an employee. Adult practices and attitudes have become embedded in organizational culture governed by strict regulations and union contracts that dictate most of what occurs inside schools today. Any impetus to change direction or structure is met with swift and stiff resistance. It's as if we are stuck in a time warp keeping a 19th century school model on life support in an attempt to meet 21st century demands." Zimman went on to discuss the Wisconsin DPI's vigorous enforcement of teacher licensing practices and provided some unfortunate math & science teacher examples (including the "impossibility" of meeting the demand for such teachers (about 14 minutes)). He further cited exploding teacher salary, benefit and retiree costs eating instructional dollars ("Similar to GM"; "worry" about the children given this situation). Zimman noted that the most recent State of Wisconsin Budget removed the requirement that arbitrators take into consideration revenue limits (a district's financial condition @17:30) when considering a District's ability to afford union negotiated compensation packages. The budget also added the amount of teacher preparation time to the list of items that must be negotiated..... "we need to breakthrough the concept that public schools are an expense, not an investment" and at the same time, we must stop looking at schools as a place for adults to work and start treating schools as a place for children to learn." In light of this talk, It has been fascinating to watch (and participate in) the intersection of:

Several years ago, former Madison Superintendent Art Rainwater remarked that "sometimes I think we have 25,000 school districts, one for each child". I found Monday evening's school board meeting interesting, and perhaps indicative of the issues Zimman noted recently. Our public schools have an always challenging task of trying to support the growing range of wants, needs and desires for our 24,180 students, staff members, teachers, administrators, taxpayers and parents. Monday's topics included:I've not mentioned the potential addition of 4K, high school redesign or other topics that bubble up from time to time. In my layperson's view, taking Zimman's talk to heart, our public schools should dramatically shrink their primary goals and focus on only the most essential topics (student achievement?). In Madison's case, get out of the curriculum creation business and embrace online learning opportunities for those students who can excel in that space while devoting staff to the kids who need them most. I would also like to see more opportunities for our students at MATC, the UW, Edgewood College and other nearby institutions. Bellevue (WA) College has a "running start" program for the local high school.

Chart via Whitney Tilson. Richard Zimman closed his talk with these words (@27 minutes): "Simply throwing more money at schools to continue as they are now is not the answer. We cannot afford more of the same with just a bigger price tag". General Motors as formerly constituted is dead. What remains is a much smaller organization beholden to Washington. We'll see how that plays out. The Madison School District enjoys significant financial, community and parental assets. I hope the Administration does just a few things well.

WIBA's Mitch Henck Discusses the Madison School District's Budget with Don Severson

24MB mp3 audio file. Mitch and Don discuss the Madison School District's $12M budget deficit, caused by a decline in redistributed tax dollars from the State of Wisconsin and generally flat enrollment. Topics include: Fund 80, health care costs, four year old kindergarten, staffing, property taxes (which may increase to make up for the reduced state tax dollar funding). Madison School District Board President Arlene Silveira sent this message to local Alders Saturday:

Good afternoon, Below is an update of the MMSD budget situation. As you know, the biennial budget was signed into law at the end of June. The budget had numerous provisions that will effect the future of public education that include:
  • Repeal of the Qualified Economic Offer (QEO)
  • Decrease in funding for public education by the state of approximately $14720million
  • Decrease in the per pupil increase associated with revenue limits
The repeal of the QEO will potentially impact future settlements for salries and benefits. The decrease in funding for public education by the state creates the need for a tax increase conversation in order to sustain current programs. The decrease in the revenue limit formula will cause MMSD to face more reductions in programs and services for the next 2 years at a minimum. EFFECT OF STATE BUDGET ON MMSD
  • Decrease in state aid: $9.2 million
  • Reduction in revenue: $2.8 million (decrease in the per pupil increase from $275 to $200/pupil)
Total decrease: projected to to be $12 million Last May, the Madison Board of Education passed a preliminary 2009-10 budget that maintained programs and services with a modest property tax increase. The groundwork for our budget was laid last fall when the Board pledged our commitment to community partnership and the community responded by supporting a referendum that allowed us to exceed revenue caps to stabilize funding for our schools. Two months later, with programs and staff in place for next year, we find ourselves faced with State funding cuts far exceeding our worst fears. HOW DID THIS HAPPEN? We are in this position in part because Wisconsin's school funding formulas are so complicated that the legislature and supporting agencies did not accurately predict the budget's impact on school districts. State aid to Madison and many other districts was cut by 15%. In practical terms, coupled with additional State cuts of $2.8 million, MMSD is saddled with State budget reductions of $12 million this year. This grim situation is a result of a poor economy, outdated information used by the legislature, and a Department of Public Instruction policy that penalizes the district for receiving one-time income (TIF closing in Madison). Federal stimulus funds will, at best, delay cuts for one year. We are left with a gaping budget deficit when many fiscal decisions for the upcoming school year cannot be reversed. WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO? We are working on strategies and options and are looking carefully at the numbers to ensure our solutions do not create new problems. We will evaluate options for dealing with the budget in early August. To repair our budget, we are working with legislators and the DPI to appeal decisions that have placed us in this position. We continue to look for changes in resource management to find additional cost reductions. We are seeking ways to offset the impact of school property tax increases if we need to increase our levy. At the same time, we pledge that we will not pass the full cost of the cuts along as increased property taxes. We will not resort to massive layoffs of teachers and support staff, t he deadline having passed to legally reduce our staff under union contracts. I will be back in touch after our August meeting when we have made decisions on our path forward. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me. Arlene Silveira Madison Board of Education 608-516-8981
Related: Sparks fly over Wisconsin Budget's Labor Related Provisions.

Wisconsin State & School Finance Climate Update

I recently had an opportunity to visit with Todd Barry, President of the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance [29 minute mp3]. A summary of this timely conversation follows: [2:25] Post Retirement Liabilities: Milwaukee Public Schools Post Retirement Health Care Liabilities: $2.2 to $2.5 billion [3:01] Wisconsin's $2.44 Billion structural deficit. The State debt load ($4billion to $9billion from 2000 to 2007) is now among the top 10. [7:48] On property values and assessment changes. Two years ago, property values grew 9%, last year 6%, 3% this year with most of the recent growth coming from commercial properties. [8:57] Wisconsin Income Growth: Per Capita personal income "The canary in the mineshaft" and how we lag the national average by 6% or more. Why? The population is aging. Senior population will double by 2030. School age population is stagnant. Employment growth peaked before the nation (04/05) Wisconsin wages per worker is about 10% less than the national average. 1969; 4% below national average, 1980's; 10 or 11% below national average. Wisconsin wagers per worker are now 14% below national average. We've been on a 40 year slide. We've hid this because the labor force participation of women has increased dramatically. Wisconsin is losing corporate headquarters. [18:18] What does this all mean for K-12 spending? "If there is going to be growth in any state appropriation,it is going to be schools and Medicaid". The way the Legislature and Governor have set up these two programs, they are more or less on auto-pilot. They will grab whatever money is available and crowd out most everything else. So you get this strange situation where state aid to schools has tripled in the last 25 years while funding for the UW has barely doubled. That sounds like a lot, but when you look at it on a year by year basis, that means state funding for the University of Wisconsin System has grown less than the rate of inflation on an annual average basis while school aids has outpaced it (inflation) as has Medicaid." Is there anything on the horizon in terms of changes in school finance sources? A discussion of shifting state school finance to the sales tax. "It's clear that in states where state government became even more dominant (in K-12 finance) than in Wisconsin, the net result, in the long run, was a slowing of state support for schools. The legislature behaves like a school board, micromanaging and mandating. California is the poster child. [20:52] On why the Madison School District, despite flat enrollment and revenue caps, has been able to grow revenues at an average of 5.25% over the past 20 years. Barry discussed: suburban growth around Madison, academic competition amongst Dane County high schools. He discussed Madison's top end students (college bound kids, kids of professionals and faculty) versus the "other half that doesn't take those (college entrance) tests" and that the "other half" is in the bottom 10 to 20% while the others are sitting up at the top on college entrance exams. [23:17]: This is a long way of saying that Madison has made its problem worse and has put itself on a course toward flat enrollment because of social service policies, school boundary policies and so forth that have pushed people out of the city. [23:42] "If there is a way within state law to get around revenue caps, Madison has been the poster child". Mentions Fund 80 and frequent and successfully passing referendums along with Madison's high spending per pupil. People think of the Milwaukee Public Schools as a high spending District. When you really look start to dig into it, it is above average, but Madison is way out there compared to even MPS. People argue that argue that MPS is top heavy in terms of administrative costs per student, Madison actually spends more in some of those categories than Milwaukee. (See SchoolFacts, more) [26:45] On K-12 School finance outlook: The last time we blew up the school finance system in Wisconsin was in 1994. And, it happened very quickly within a span of 2 to 3 months and it had everything to do with partisan political gotcha and it had nothing to do with education. [28:26] "Where are the two bastians of Democratic seats in the legislature? Madison and Milwaukee. Madison is property rich and Milwaukee is relatively property poor. Somehow you have to reconcile those two within a Democratic environment and on the Republican side you have property rich suburbs and some very property poor rural districts.

A Public Hearing on Madison's November, 2008 Referendum


Taxpayers got a chance to ask the questions Tuesday night about the upcoming multimillion dollar Madison school referendum. More than a dozen people turned out to Sherman Middle School for the first of four public hearings across the city. Superintendent Dan Nerad gave a brief presentation before opening the forum up for questions. Voters questioned everything from Fund 80 to the Capital Expansion Fund and student achievement. Active Citizens for Education said they would like to have seen the referendum scheduled for the spring in order to give the district time to re-evaluate programs that they say are not working - programs that could be cut or changed. "Where they're talking about maintaining current programs and services it's not getting good results," said ACE's Don Severson. "You look at the achievement gap, look at increased truancy, look an an increased drop-out rate, decreased attendance rates, more money isn't going to get different results." Referendum supporters, Communities And Schools Together, know the $13 million referendum will be a tough sell, but worth it. "I think it is going to be a hard sell," said CAST member and first-grade teacher Troy Dassler. "We really need to get people out there who are interested still in investing in infrastructure. I can think of no greater an investment -- even in the most difficult tough times that we're facing that we wouldn't invest in the future of Madison."
Tamira Madsen:
School Board President Arlene Silveira was pleased with the dialogue and questions asked at the forum and said she hasn't been overwhelmed with questions from constituents about the referendum. "It's been fairly quiet, and I think it's been overshadowed by the presidential election and (downturn with) the economy," Silveira said. "People are very interested, but it does take an explanation. "People ask a lot of questions just because it's different (with the tax components). Their initial reaction is: Tell me what this is again and what this means? They realize a lot of thought and work has gone into this and certainly this is something they will support or consider supporting after they go back and look at their own personal needs." Superintendent Dan Nerad has already formulated a plan for program and service cuts in the 2009-2010 budget if voters do not pass the referendum. Those include increasing class sizes at elementary and high schools, trimming services for at-risk students, reducing high school support staff, decreasing special education staffing, and eliminating some maintenance projects. Nerad said outlining potential budget cuts by general categories as opposed to specific programs was the best route for the district at this juncture.

"No Surprises in School Budget, but Referendum Looms"

Tamira Madsen:

Facing a possible referendum and $9.2 million hole for the 2009-10 school year, no major alterations are anticipated to the school 2008-09 budget that will be finalized Monday by Madison School Board members. When new superintendent Dan Nerad starts in July, referendum discussion will come to the forefront for the Madison Metropolitan School District. If Board members decide to propose a referendum, which could occur as early as November, they will request taxpayers consider overriding state-imposed revenue gaps so that services and programs won't have to be severely slashed from the district's budget. In the meantime, only one administrative amendment and two Board amendments are on the agenda and approval is expected at the School Board meeting as superintendent Art Rainwater presents plans for the final budget of his tenure. Rainwater, who has worked with the district for 14 years -- including the last 10 as superintendent -- will retire this summer. Nerad will take over on July 1. School Board members are well aware of the multi-million budget cuts looming for the 2009-10 school year, and Rainwater said he wasn't surprised with short list of amendments. "I think the overall intention for the Board from day one was really and truly to work to preserve exactly what we have," Rainwater said during a telephone interview Friday.
Notes and links on the proposed $367,806,712 2008/2009 budget. Three proposed budget amendments:
  • Limit Fund 80 spending to a 4% increase [19K PDF]
  • Limit Fund 80 spending to a 4% increase [19K PDF]
  • Increase technology purchases by $100,000 and reduced the reserve for contingency
  • Limit Fund 80 spending to a 4% increase [9K PDF]
  • Increase the Fund 80 tax levy by $60,000 for the Madison Family Literacy / Even Start Literacy Program [9K PDF]
Much more on Fund 80 here.

Schools' Use of Community Levy up

Amy Hetzner:

Local school districts continued to turn to the unrestricted community service levy this school year, boosting taxes paid to the fund by 10%, almost twice the increase in their total property tax income. For the 2007-'08 school year, the 60 public school districts in the five-county metro Milwaukee area plan to raise nearly $22.6 million through the community service levy, which has grown rapidly since the state Legislature removed it from under revenue caps seven years ago. Statewide, school systems will receive about $66.6 million in community service funds through property tax increases this school year, according to information from the state Department of Public Instruction. That compares with just over $17 million raised by Wisconsin school districts for community service activities in 2000-'01, the first year the fund came out from under the state revenue controls. When legislators first removed community service activities from under the strictures of revenue caps, they said they did so because school districts that run recreational departments for their communities should not be forced to cut educational services to fund outside activities.
Tax and spending growth in Madison's Fund 80 has also been controversial.

New Berlin School Board & The City Discuss Park & Recreation Costs

Erin Richards: The disagreement raises questions about how communities, in times of tight budgets, find the dollars to provide recreation and enrichment programs for their residents. School Board President Keith Heun said he expects the ad hoc committee to make some headway on a new agreement before the School Board's next meeting July 9. Members have not yet been chosen, but likely will include representatives from the School Board and Common Council. The board also voted this week to rework its classification of school facility users. Since 1968, the city's Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department has been classified as a group two user along with other non-profit civil and service organizations that don't have to pay rental fees, Heun said.Locally,...

Milwaukee Schools finding way around budget cap

Alan Borsuk: A path for getting around a state-imposed cap on how much a school district can spend is allowing Milwaukee Public Schools to add driver's education programs, fund more arts programs, maintain after-school centers that are losing federal aid and even add a position to the staff of the School Board. The path means there will be fewer invasive plant species to be seen at two nature preserves owned by MPS. But it also means property taxes will be going up more than they otherwise would. In two years, the School Board has raised the amount being collected through what is called its extension fund by almost 60%, which comes to an increase of about $8 for each resident...

Madison's Fund 80 & Elections

TJ Mertz:In this morning’s Wisconsin State Journal there is a story that again misrepresents the place of Madison School Community Recreation and Fund 80 in the district and the community. The chart comparing Fund 80 levies in Madison to those in other districts ignores the fact that most or all of those locales have municipal recreation programs paid for by municipal taxes. Due to a historical quirk, Madison has very little in the way of a municipal recreation department and programs and services that other locales fund via municipal or county taxes are funded and governed by the school district via Fund 80. In order to get a realistic comparison of Madison’s spending on recreational and community education programming one...

"Community Services Levies Climb Since Caps Lifted"

Amy Hetzner:Lawmaker requests audit as school districts across state raise taxes to support programs. Five years after state legislators released them from state-imposed revenue caps, school districts' community service tax levies have nearly tripled, reaching $49 million this year. The rampant growth in these property taxes - earmarked for community-based activities - took place as the total levies for schools statewide rose by 22.7%. That has raised concerns about school districts skating around revenue limits and has prompted one lawmaker to request an audit of the program. State Rep. Debi Towns (R-Janesville) said she is curious why property taxes that pay for recreational and community activities offered by school districts have grown so much since the 2000-'01 school year. In...

Recommendations for 2006-2007 Budget

Active Citizens for Education offers the following recommendations for the consideration of the MMSD Board of Education in the allocation of funds for the 2006-2007 budget: (I appeared on WIBA, 1310, this evening with Brian Schimming and discussed the MMSD proposed budget and ACE recommendations) [18MB mp3]...

Fund 80 Is Worth Our Support

Carol Carstensen:What is Fund 80, and why are people saying such awful things aboutit? Fund 80 is the state accounting code for community services expenditures,the major portion of which is for Madison SchoolCarstensen Community Recreation (MSCR) and the district's cable channel 10.The current budget for community services is $11 million. Of that $8 millionis from the tax levy; the remainder comes from fees and grants. MSCR programs range from exercise programs for seniors to swim lessons forinfants and toddlers, from adult sport leagues to summer day camps forelementary students, plus art and dance classes for all ages. The 2001-03 state budget allowed community services expenditures to bemoved out from under the revenue cap imposed on school districts. This wasdone so...

Audio: Mitch Henck Interviews Carol Carstensen and Nan Brien

Mitch Henck interviewed Carol Carstensen and Nan Brien this morning. They discussed the District's 06/07 planned budget, health care spending, local property taxes and Monday's approval of an 856K electrical upgrade to Sennett Middle School that was $397,000 over the estimated cost, funded by the maintenance referendum (I've not seen any discussion of this in the local media [Cap Times | Channel3000]. Excerpt: 5.7MB MP3 file. The property tax discussion is interesting as there are many factors that affect what a homeowner pays for schools including:redistributed state taxes ("aid" - via income, sales and other taxes/fees), # of students (the district's taxing/spending authority follows students numbers. Losing students is expensive.),assessed value changes (some communities like Madison reassess annually, while others,...

2006 Candidate Forum Audio/Video: Dane County Public Affairs Council

Dane County Public Affairs Council2006 Madison School Board Candidate Forum.View [video] or listen [mp3 audio] to the entire event, or read each question below and view the candidate responses....

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