This Just In ...

Kevin Fischer is a veteran broadcaster, the recipient of over 150 major journalism awards from the Milwaukee Press Club, the Wisconsin Associated Press, the Northwest Broadcast News Association, the Wisconsin Bar Association, and others. He has been seen and heard on Milwaukee TV and radio stations for over three decades. A longtime aide to state Senate Republicans in the Wisconsin Legislature, Kevin can be seen offering his views on the news on the public affairs program, "InterCHANGE," on Milwaukee Public Television Channel 10, and heard filling in on Newstalk 1130 WISN. He lives with his wife, Jennifer, and their lovely young daughter, Kyla Audrey, in Franklin.


Franklin taxpayers, you have been very generous year after year after year to your city in the incredible amount of property taxes you pay. Compared to other municipalities in the area, Franklin certainly is among the leaders in the dreaded “T” word.

City leaders, I’m sorry to say, have failed in their attempts to hold the line, more often than not, taxing and spending like nobody’s business.

We’re in a recession?

Doesn’t matter.

People are losing their jobs?

Doesn’t matter?

People are losing their homes?

Again, doesn’t matter.

Like so many other municipalities, Franklin governs under the opinion that cutting spending which leads to reduced taxes simply can’t be done. Actually, it can be done, but that requires courage, tough choices, and tough votes. Why do that when you can just take the easy way out and brag to constituents how you kept this program and that service intact.

All across the nation during 2010, citizens made their voices loud and clear. Enough is enough. You are taxing us to death. Did city of Franklin leaders listen?

In June of 2010, I was hoping the light bulb would finally go on. Gloomy news was released that should have been a wake-up call.

The city of Franklin’s Finance Department issued its financial report for the first three months of 2010 and it showed Franklin is in serious budget trouble. Franklin finds itself in the same situation of some reckless consumer that is spending far more than he/she is making. The city is spending more of your money than it is taking in, creating a budget deficit.

As of that June 2010 report, Franklin’s incoming revenue was $1,510, 365 less than the amount the city has budgeted for. That’s over $1.5 million in the hole. And yet the city keeps spending and spending and spending and spending and spending.

What’s causing the budget shortfall? Building permits, planning fees, fire inspections, tippage, Milwaukee payments toward paramedics and interest revenue are all lagging. And that’s only three months into the year.

I’m not on the Finance Committee, though Mayor Taylor has asked me to serve in the past. If I was, my advice would be clear, concise, and simple. The piggy bank is broke. Time to stop spending. Cut up the VISA card. If you don't want to make budget cuts, then it’s time to enact a property tax freeze/spending freeze right now. Take your lumps temporarily. Ride through this mess. Get back on track. Gain some political favor with suffering taxpayers.

Spending cuts? Please. Look at who’s on the Common Council. Tax increase? That appeared more likely.

In November, the Franklin Common Council on a vote of 5-1 with support from Mayor Tom Taylor adopted a 2.6 percent property tax levy increase during a recession when taxpayers are facing salary and benefit cuts, job losses, and foreclosures. We who pay the bills were lectured that this tax and spending increase was “responsible.”

Alderman Steve Olson made several motions to get the budget closer to a 0% property tax levy increase. None of his proposals would have cut police, fire, or public works.  All of his motions were rejected, some without a second.

A few weeks later, City Hall went into damage control.

At the request of Mayor Taylor, an informational report was compiled for a Franklin Common Council meeting entitled: “Comparison of Municipal Property Tax Rates and Other Municipal Charges.” The intent was crystal clear. The report, prepared November 30, was to be used as ammunition in defense of the recession property tax levy hike.

The Mayor, the report states, asked for the analysis “to address whether or not Franklin has high taxes compared to other communities. It further claims, “Franklin has very low municipal property taxes when compared to other Milwaukee County communities, and when other municipal special charges are considered, Franklin fairs (sic) even better.”

City staff analyzed the assessed property tax rates for all 19 Milwaukee communities and then applied the 2009 Aggregate ratio of Assessment to those rates to determine an equalized property tax rate for each community. The Franklin reports states, “Franklin has the third lowest rate with 13 of the communities exceeding Franklin’s rate by more than fifty cents per thousand dollars of equalized value and nine of those communities exceeding Franklin’s rate by more than $1.00 per thousand dollars of equalized value..”

The report then makes this bold claim:

“From this perspective, Franklin clearly has very low municipal property taxes when compared to other Milwaukee communities.”

Another key point of the report is that other communities impose “special charges” for services. Franklin does not assess a special charge for garbage collection, recycling, or storm water utility.

Finally, the report asserts, “Franklin’s equalized municipal property tax rate is one of the lowest in the County. (The special charges in other communities) clearly solidifies Franklin’s position as a comparatively low taxed and charged community.”


This analysis is not convincing and, quite frankly, flawed.

The report emphasizes tax rates, a common ploy of the tax and spenders. The tax rate is meaningless. It’s the property tax levy that’s important.

Also, I’m not sold by an analysis that compares our tax hell to 18 other tax hells.

The timing of this report, just a few weeks after a property tax levy increase was adopted, is also suspect. If this is supposed to make taxpayers feel better about our fiscal condition, shouldn’t this report have been done and announced prior to action on the city budget last month?

All this PR spin does is make the taxers and spenders feel good about what they’ve done. It does nothing for the taxpayers. The time to help taxpayers was at budget time, not two weeks later.

Steve Walters wrote this in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

"+19.1%: The Legislative Fiscal Bureau estimates that the December 2002 net property tax bill on that mythical median-valued Wisconsin home was $2,517, and the bills that will soon be arriving in that homeowner's mailbox will be for $3,000 - a $19.1% increase."

Walters’ column got me wondering how the city of Franklin’s tax numbers changed during the same 8-year period from 2002 to the present.

Again, the property tax levy is the most important tax piece. In 2002, Franklin’s property tax levy was $15,606,851. The recently-adopted Franklin budget has a property tax levy of $ $20,426,000.  That’s an increase of 30.8 %.

Rather than focus on the levy, Franklin City Hall leaders have been concentrating on the tax rate. They submit that Franklin’s taxes when comparing our tax rate to the rates in other communities aren’t all that bad.

OK, so let’s look at the tax rate. In 2002, Franklin’s tax rate was $8.17. The recently-adopted city budget has a tax rate of $24.76. That’s an increase of 203%.

That’s using Franklin’s own data.

Alderman Steve Taylor went on a tirade blasting bloggers that would dare criticize Franklin taxes. At a Common Council meeting, Taylor angrily said,Then get the hell out of here if you don't like it."

Taylor forgets that it’s not just a handful of bloggers who aren’t thrilled.

Franklin Mayor Tom Taylor, Alderman Doug Schmidt, Alderman Steve Taylor, Alderman Timothy Solomon, Alderman Steve Olson, and Alderman Kristen Wilhelm received the following e-mail this month from a Franklin taxpayer.

The author gave me permission to publish the e-mail. I am withholding, by request, the author’s name.

Dear Common Council, 

Gotta say, that in these economic times, I am overwhelmed by my tax bill.  It went up about $518.  We were already short based on last year's taxes, now it is even worse.  Currently, I am way under-employed.  My husband is under-employed and may not even have a job come January.    


Plus, the new assessments are way out of line for these economic times.  There is no way anyone would pay $244,000 for my house.  I think I would be lucky to sell it for $150,000 right now.  In fact, if anyone of you would like to pay $244,000 for my house, you've got a sale.  Because as soon as I can, I have got to move out of Franklin.  I cannot afford to live here.  Soon as I can, I am moving to Rhinelander where my taxes would be half of what they are here.   


Please stop spending our money.  I have had to cut way back.  Perhaps the city should cut back, too.  Quit building these "super-highway" roads all over the city.  Quit building parks and trails.  Quit trying to build new schools.  Quit hiring new policemen.  These things are not necessary right now.  We can make do with what we have.  That's what I have to do.  When I go shopping, I look at everything in my cart and ask myself, "Do I really NEED this?"  Perhaps that is what the city should be doing, too.

Remember what Alderman Steve Taylor said:

Then get the hell out of here if you don't like it."

I’ve written a lot about the wonders of Franklin. I would dearly love to add fiscal responsibility to the list.

1) ?
2) ?

3) ?


This site uses Facebook comments to make it easier for you to contribute. If you see a comment you would like to flag for spam or abuse, click the "x" in the upper right of it. By posting, you agree to our Terms of Use.

Page Tools