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Vote “No” On Costly Referendums: Opinion

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Opinion: Vote No On School Referendums

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By John Dalton, Special to Kenosha County Eye

There seems to be a common thread with operational school referendums aimed at exceeding the state mandated revenue caps. Schools claim that they don’t have enough money, need taxpayers to pony up even more or the children that they serve will be severely impacted.  The needs (or is it wants?) are endless. They will tell you teachers and staff may have to be axed (but never administration), and class sizes will increase – ‘A vote against the referendum is a vote against kids’ many will proclaim.  And ‘after-all, the tax increase won’t be all that much’.

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Such is the case of Riverview Elementary School and Wilmot Union HS where both seek huge increases in property taxes with operational referendums on the ballot this spring election on April 4.

In the case of Riverview the request is for an additional $2.4M over three years. The mill rate will increase from $4.19 to approximately $5.62, a 34% increase. To put that in perspective, the owner of a $150K house will pay an additional $643 and a $250K house is in for a $1126 bump. For folks, especially those with fixed incomes, pressed by rising food, gas and housing costs, the burden will be heavy.

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Wilmot UHS is asking for even more, $8.4M over two years. A large portion of the increase will be used to replenish money “borrowed” from reserve accounts to support over-spending in previous years. They are telling taxpayers that their property tax bill will not increase if the referendum is passed. How can that be? It’s how they represent the increase. As previous referendums time-frames expire a new one will take its place. Per the District’s web site if the referendum is defeated the two-year savings on a $150K house will be approximately $272 and $453 on a $250K house. That’s hardly nothing.

For those families unlucky enough to reside in both overlapping districts the total tax impact is staggering. In our examples of a $150K house the increase will be $915 and a $250K house increases by $1579. And that’s just the increase on top of the regular taxes. Think of anything you might be able to do with that amount of money in your pocket?

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Each school blames declining revenues as a need for more money. Also cited are stagnant or declining enrollment, therefore less government funding. Are we to believe that fewer students require more funds? In the past taxpayers were told the school needed to raise taxes because of increasing enrollment. Schools that need to increase taxes both when enrollment is up and down are not managing their finances properly.

Both schools also cite loss of ESSER funding, which are expiring government grants to combat COVID costs. With COVID not a factor, why should the taxpayers replenish what is no longer needed? Both Wilmot and Riverview used these one-time ESSER funds to hire more permanent staff with no plan to pay for these costs after the ESSER funds ran out. This poor planning of “buy it now and hopefully raise taxes later” is bad fiscal policy.

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The bottom line is that both institutions need to deal with budget constraints and challenges just like taxpayers must do every day of their lives. You can be both “for the kids” and also be against excessive spending. Prioritize needs from wants. These referendums are not needed and both should be defeated.

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21 Responses

  1. Realistically the cost of heating, cooling, water, and maintenance have all gone up. I would say the employees there deserve wage increases just as any other working employee does. I’m sure anyone reading this or commenting on it has wages or income of some sort, and expect increases to keep up with inflation. I have no stake or vote in this, and do not live in that district; and I am not a teacher. There will be some cuts they could make, but like it or not, all workers should be able to expect raises. If you don’t believe that, I’ll assume you have turned down every raise or bonus you were offered.

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    1. Unfortunately most peoples wages are not keeping up with inflation. I work for a big multinational company and we didn’t receive raises anywhere near inflation. That’s right, I’m making less money now than three years ago.

  2. I agree. Vote No.
    Schools repeatedly say your taxes will not go up. That’s a Lie.
    As John Dutton correctly says, when one referendum expires another takes it’s place. And while the school will “admit” this as true they continue to say that as long as you previously voted to raise your own taxes you “should agree without complaint” to continue doing so. Logic of omission.
    True the “overhead” of running a school building remains relatively constant no matter how many children are enrolled.
    Heat and light all need to be on. Janitorial staff still needs to clean the same footage. Roofing continues to age. But other staff can be adjusted. Technology continues to assist teachers and not everyone gets a raise each year. Also “one time funds” such as those from Covid should Never be used for ongoing expenses.
    Vote No and see what happens. Let that guide you on if the school can do without.
    And if they truly can’t, they can try again next year.

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    1. To C,
      Congrats on probably the dumbest post on this thread. Vote No and you will see teachers and programs cut and then good luck selling your house/double wide trailer. But hey, at least you keep your couple hundred dollars so you can keep buying smokes and booze.

  3. Clearly the author of those infographics went to an underfunded school that never taught the difference between AFFECT and EFFECT. Seems like a solid case to increase funding to schools, imho

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      1. If the author isn’t smart enough, savvy enough, or detail-oriented enough to catch a simple error like that, what else did they get wrong?

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        1. Please let us know what else they got wrong, since you are implying that this information is incorrect. You know that these numbers are accurate and you don’t want to admit that property taxes are going skyrocket if these referendums get passed.

  4. Imagine, if you will, that last year your boss saw fit to give you a one-time bonus. You buy a car using money from the bonus to make payments. Now this year your boss can’t give you a bonus but you still have the payments. You go to your boss and tell him of your dilemma. Your boss reminds you that your bonus last year was a one-time payment with no guarantee that it would be paid this year.
    That’s your fault for counting on money that you won’t necessarily receive this year.
    That’s similar to what the schools are doing when they hire full time teachers/staff but don’t have the one-time funds anymore to pay for them.
    It just isn’t good financial planning or wise fiscal management.

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  5. Come on man! Y’all got the money in the county. Suck it up and pay your fair share! Or maybe you should home school? Ha…

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  6. Hopefully berg chimes in. He sure knows a lot about everything, I’m sure he will post about it like he does when politics are involved. Always a good page to visit if you want to see hypocrisy

  7. Save some funds getting rid of redundant administration staff. Not to name names but they enjoy attacking and criminalizing/labeling teens. I have at least 6 different families just in my extremely small network of acquaintances who have been victimized and labeled by this person of “power”. Not even current students, but students from the last 8 years. This person is on a powertrip. He’s not there to help students but rather bully intimate, and violate personal/governmental rights. I used to love this school, but I am now beyond disgusted.

    1. You weren’t disgusted with Jim Padlock and his “behavioral” problems. Why did he skip town so fast and nothing was EVER said? I might start naming more names too. The sheltered few in power.

    2. Add several more positions that focus on diversity and inclusion. These positions are very important, and do a world of good. Oh, wait, they’re utter wastes of funds because laws, policy, and tests don’t see color, just actions.

    3. LOL “Criminalizing/labeling teens” News Flash, if you have multiple teachers and staff telling you your precious little Johnny/Becky is a jerk, chances are it’s true. Maybe instead of blaming others y
      ou should look in the mirror?

  8. Imprimis is a publication of Hillsdale College. It has a very informative article called
    Education as a Battleground by Larry P. Arnn

  9. Schools are primarily funded by a complicated formula from the state budget based on the number of students attending. Wilmot HS, like most schools in the state has seen declining enrollment due to a variety of factors from around 1400 to 900 students. That is a dramatic decrease in funding. The building still needs to heated, maintained and operated. Costs are going up for everything. Also test scores have shown because of the COVID lockdown a few years ago nearly 1/2 of the freshmen coming into the high school are at least one grade behind in reading and about 1/3 in math scores. These are basic skills required to be successful in other pursuits and in life. Wilmot has never passed an operating referendum before, whereas over 1/2 the other high schools in Wisconsin have. This Referendum is critical to the operation of the school and maintaining its high scholastic standing. If we fail our kids, we fail our future.

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