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.

Local property taxpayers need to be informed

Area property taxpayers got some great news recently when the Public Policy Forum released a report showing
southeastern Wisconsin property tax levies declined for the first time in at least a decade. It’s actually old news. Property taxpayers saw and felt the difference when they went to the mailboxes last December.

Liberal Journal Sentinel reporter Larry Sandler wrote that the drop was “partly”, yes, “partly" due to action by state government, i.e., Republicans.

The authors of the Public Policy Forum report gave a different assessment.

The report says, “
the relationship between valuations and taxes…is impacted considerably this year by legislative changes adopted as part of the 2011-13 Wisconsin State Budget placing stringent limits on local government levying efforts. The new levy limit for municipalities and counties is now generally defined as no more than the greater of (a) the previous year's actual levy; or (b) a percentage equal to the percentage change in equalized value due to net new construction. Consequently, local governments having zero net new construction in a given year now might be precluded from receiving any increase in property tax revenue in the following year. The state budget also lowered school district revenue caps by 5.5% in Fiscal Year 2011-12, which means that school districts that experienced an increase or only a small decrease in state aid were required to lower their levies. For FY 2012-13, school district total revenues (property taxes and state aid) are frozen at the 2011-12 level.”

In other words, very little, if any credit goes to locally-elected officials. Thank you notes, instead, go to Governor Walker and legislative Republicans who crafted and approved the current state budget.

Without the provisions in the state budget, you can bet property taxes would have continued to go upward. This is especially true in Tax Hell, USA, otherwise known as Franklin, Wisconsin. The Common Council is dominated by tax and spenders who would never seriously consider serious cuts and are not representative of the city as a whole. The School Board is even worse. Even after some positive development sin the spring school board elections, five out of seven school board members just voted to place a referendum on the November ballot that, if approved, could result in a tax increase of close to $50 million.

FranklinNOW reported on the school board action, omitting the rather important element of how each board member voted (Janet Evans and Aimee Schlueter correctly voted NO).  The board vote simply okayed a referendum.  Following the article were several comments posted from readers including this one from someone called Facts of Life:

“I don't live in Franklin so I really don't care what they do. My point is this is how it's supposed to work. Ask the taxpayers, through referendum, if they want to increase their taxes. If they vote in favor of it, great- if not, that's fine too.”

The comment is ho-hum, lame, and rather dumb, symbolizing why taxes are so high when the people who pay the bills display an attitude that they really don't give a ****.

The comment is also dead wrong. This is NOT “how it’s supposed to work.” Stunningly and stupidly, the school board voted to have a referendum without knowing its details, its cost, or its wording. They’ll just deal with those important elements later. Totally irresponsible vote.

This leads to a final point and a key lesson. While the April school board elections gave fiscally conservative Franklin taxpayers hope, there is no guarantee. Three board members, all up for re-election next year, will always suck up to the tax and spend crowd. Board members Linda Witkowksi and Tim Nielson, while somewhat more reasonable are also inconsistent and can not be trusted to always be there for the taxpayers.

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