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.

A strange vote in the Franklin School Board

I’ve been involved to some degree in politics for 33 years so I know a strange vote when I see one. What happened at the June 15 Franklin School Board meeting, I assure you, was rare.

Under the unusual to say least Franklin school budget process, the school board was meeting for the second time in a week to consider preliminary approval of next year’s school budget, an endeavor taken even though the district won’t know until the fall final numbers.


On Fred Keller’s Franklin blog, board member Janet Evans provided this important reminder:

As you are aware, the Board originally voted 3-3 on the budget on June 8th.  The budget presented on the 15th did not contain any changes from the June 8th budget.”

On June 8, newly-elected board member Tim Nielson voted NO. One week later, he voted YES. Same preliminary budget. No changes. Two different votes in just one week. Nielson wrote to Keller:

“This proposed budget is balanced with no program cuts that I am aware of--which is good for the kids.”

Keller also asked other board members why they voted the way they did on June 15. Please read the portion of Nielson’s response I posted above and pay attention to the following responses.

Debra Larson:

I voted for the 2011-12 budget because it maintains excellent educational programs for the students of the Franklin Public Schools and it reduces property taxes.”

Melissa Klein:

I voted in favor of this budget because it is balanced, it reduces the tax levy and tax levy rates, and also because it does not cut current programs or services for our students.”

Judith Bialk:

“I openly stated at the June 15th meeting that I was voting in the affirmative for the 2011-12 budget based on three reasons: 1. The budget is balanced.  2.  There are no cuts represented in this budget, and 3.  The tax levy for our community is going down this year.”

Keller didn’t ask Nielson an important question:

What happened between June 8 and June 15 that caused you to change your negative vote to an affirmative vote?

If you review the above answers, it certainly seems and sounds as though the group put their heads together and rehearsed and sang the same refrains for Keller out of the same hymnal. Larson, Klein, and Bialk are far from being fiscally conservative or sound. Suddenly we are to believe that after casting vote after vote to bilk taxpayers they have now seen the light and love lax levy decreases.

How else does Nielson explain his change of heart except that the tax and spend crowd got to him.  One week he doesn’t like vanilla ice cream. The next, he’s ordering sundaes.

I’ve never met or spoken with Tim Nielson. We had brief e-mail correspondences before he was elected. I expressed to him my concerns about candidates like ousted Franklin school board member David Works who talk one way, then act and vote another once they get the job. I then went out and voted for Nielson.

Give Nielson some slack. After all, he just began his term. But he’s so new and green and, apparently, vulnerable to the fiscally irresponsible bunch on the board. That worries me.

Nielson needs to use this as a political lesson. I doubt he’ll flip again come the fall on the next budget vote. He should have taken the approach voiced by Janet Evans who has voted NO twice because she saw a budget in need of improvement and wasn’t about to just blindly vote YES. But it’s too late now.

Nielson made the mistake of saying this budget, far from completed, is good for the kids. Just try to reverse that ship. Evans can still, in the months ahead and in good conscience, examine the budget prudently and independently. Nielson, for all intents and purposes, is dead man walking. His budget vote has been surrendered.

I was afraid of this. Somewhere, David Works is laughing.

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