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.



Two weeks ago, December 8 to be exact, a friend of mine from Menomonee Falls excitedly asked me the following:

“Kevin, do you think my property taxes went up, stayed the same, or went down?”

Not knowing what his locals did, I guessed that because of his school board, his taxes went up slightly.  Nope.

“They went down dramatically!” he proclaimed. “What about yours?”

My tax news took about another ten days to arrive in my mailbox but the news was good. Mine went down slightly. Imagine if the Franklin Common Council hadn’t increased spending by 24%.

Thank you, Scott Walker. If not for his state budget action that essentially imposed a property tax freeze, my taxes probably would have gone up 3-4% or more. So again, thank you, Governor. Franklin is still a tax hell, but not as hellish as the past, and that’s no thanks to the people with taxing authority in our city.

Yes, we’re a tax hell. Some folks don’t like hearing or reading that, but it’s true. The data is simply overwhelming and this messenger emphatically made that point in 2011.

Toward the end of 2009 when I posted more evidence of how ridiculous our taxes are, Mayor Tom Taylor, instead of making a public admission and promise to do something about it, commissioned his staff to prepare a report in rebuttal that compared Franklin’s city tax rate to tax rates in surrounding communities.

Mayor Taylor distributed this report to Common Council members who, at one of their subsequent meetings, nodded like brainwashed sheep and laughed and snickered at and insulted anyone (like me) that would dare question our obscene taxes. The hope was that the general public wouldn’t see the major flaw in the staff report, that the tax rate is meaningless. It’s the tax LEVY that’s important.

Earlier this year, I asked the Research Director for the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance (WISTAX), Dale Knapp for the latest property tax information for the city of Franklin. From the WISTAX web site:

“Celebrating its 78th year, the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance (WISTAX) is the state's oldest and most respected private government research organization.  Since 1932, it has been promoting better government and an informed citizenry through its publications, public outreach and extensive school programs.”

Knapp responded to my request:

“The latest numbers for the city of Franklin are for 2009/10 (billed in 2009, payable in 2010).  We won't have this year's numbers until later this spring.”

There are important tables reported by WISTAX.

1) The municipal tax is the total amount levied by the municipality for municipal purposes. 

2) The net levy includes all property taxes levied in the municipality.  This includes the levy for the local school district(s), technical colleges, county, municipality, special districts, and the state.

3) Per capita, or tax paid by each person.

Let’s look at how the city of Franklin fares among all 599 cities and villages ranked by WISTAX.

The municipal tax: Franklin ranked #308

The net levy: Franklin ranked #157.

Doesn’t seem all that terrible, does it?

But now you look at the per capita rankings.

For the municipal tax, Franklin ranked # 67. For the net levy, Franklin ranked # 42.

In October I reported more information, this time from the non-partisan Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance. The WTA listed the 2010-11 Municipal and Net Levies by Cities and Villages. At that time in October, those were the current levies. Municipalities were working on the 2011-12 levies.

There are 594 cities and villages in Wisconsin that were part of this compilation by the WTA with #1 being the best in their rankings, #594 the worst.

The city of Franklin’s Municipal Levy (just under $21 million) ranked at #291.  That puts Franklin in the top 49%. The city’s per capita of $618 (based on the municipal levy) ranked us at #66, or in the top 11% of tax and spenders among cities and villages statewide.

OK. The above is what Franklin City Hall can actually control. Now you add in all the other taxes ON TOP of what the city imposes. Schools. Sewer. County. And you get the Net Levy. Franklin’s 2010-11 Net Levy of $87.1 million ranked #124. Remember, Franklinites still have to pay all that regardless of the taxing authority. That ranked us at #124, or in the top 21% statewide.

Now, the per capita based on the Net Levy is $2,571. That, to me, is a laugher. I’d give an appendage to receive an annual tax bill like that. That ranks us at #46, or in the top 8% statewide.

This year we got a huge break because Scott Walker’s budget, approved by legislative Republicans, basically mandates real honest to goodness property tax relief. Your locals had nothing to do with it. If they dare to grab credit, shame on them.

Despite the lower taxes, we in Franklin still pay too much because we spend too much. I’ll continue to point that out even though the tax and spenders, heads in sand will reply that critics:

1) Are too negative

2) Aren’t as smart as they are

3) Don’t know what they’re talking about

4) Are mean and nasty

5) Don’t have a degree in accounting

6) Just want people to read their blog

With no disrespect, anytime the mayor or aldermen would like to trade tax bills with me, I’m wide open to that.


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