Imagine my surprise when I saw this story in this morning’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (executive decision to take a break from ripping them for the asterisk editorial this time only) that claims that school taxes are going down by an average of 0.5%. Let’s take a look at the first paragraph:
Property taxes for schools will drop 0.5% statewide on the bills that go out next month, but individual school districts could see bigger decreases or substantial increases, according to a report to be issued today by the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance.
Well, here in Oak Creek, they’re going up 2.21% to go along with the city’s 4.17% levy increase with an over-5% spending increase financed with a fund raid, the county-board-mandated 2.98% county levy increase, the 4% MMSD (the Crappy Water People) levy increase, and the 6.6% MATC levy increase. I decided to see if I can find the report referenced by the Journal Sentinel. I went to the Wisconsin Taxpayer’s Alliance website; nope, nothing there about this. The latest item they have on the site is a piece on administrative rules from 11/17 with an accompanying press release. I went to WisPolitics.com Press Release archive, thinking that the webmasters at wistax.org were a bit slow on issuing a press release. Oops; the latest press release from the WTA they have there is also the 11/17 adminstrative rule press release. I did manage to come up with the numbers myself and was shocked to be able to confirm them.
However, I do notice that this ignores the spending, which has gone up due to fund raids at the state level. Also, this comes at the back end of a stunt by Craps. This is noted in a way at the end of the story, but I’ll get back to that in a bit. Remember that the state aid increase came 2 years after he unilaterally shorted the state’s 2/3rds share of the funding of schools (61% seems to stick in my mind), and his various raids brought that back up to essentially 2/3rds. So, let’s take a look at the levy since the 2002-2003 school year (the last year before Craps began his budget games). Due in large part to that shorting, the total statewide school property tax levy went up 5.50% between 2002-2003 and 2003-2004, and 7.22% between 2003-2004 and 2004-2005. So, doing some fancy math and taking this year’s gimmick tax “cut” into account, the school tax levy went up an annual average of 4.02%. For those interested in viewing the numbers themselves, you can either head to DPI’s Tax Levy page and do the math, or download my worksheet (a 125 KB Excel file). Any takers on next year’s school tax levy INCREASE being less than 4%?
Back to how this was noted in the Journal Sentinel. They quote Wauwatosa School Board Business Services Director John Mack – “The levy is actually completely controlled by the state, and when I give my budget presentations, I don’t take credit when it goes down and I don’t take the blame when it goes up.” What a crock of horse manure. Mr. Mack, you’re paid to figure stuff like this out, and considering you’re a school district employee, you’re probably compensated very handsomely in both salary and benefits. Could your inability to figure this out have resulted in the average annualized levy increase of 3.81% (8.36% between 2002-2003 and 2003-2004, 3.62% increase between 2003-2004 and 2004-2005, and a 0.37% decrease between 2004-2005 and 2005-2006)?