Saturday, December 8, 2007

Merry Christmas, the tax bills cometh. Yeah, right.

The tax bills are coming! The tax bills are coming!

Well, mine is here and there is little reason for joy. The entire bill is up 4.4% -- too much, I think. The main culprit: The Kenosha Unified School District.

Let's take a look at what the drunken spending style school board has done.

The tax rate is up 5.1%. That's bad enough. But there are other numbers, such as the entire levy amount of $80.5 million vs. $74.7 million last year. That's a big hike.

You might not know it but KUSD is the third largest school district in Wisconsin in terms of enrollment in the state with 22,482 students -- 2,273 less than Madison and 786 more than Racine and 2,412 more than Green Bay.

So, Racine's enrollment is 96.5% of Kenosha's figure. But the Racine tax levy is $63.8 million and that district's tax rate actually went down this year! In other words, Racine taxpayers are shelling out $2,942 per student vs. $3,581 in Kenosha.

The legislature is both the hero and villian in terms of the property tax bill. The Kenosha school tax rate was ameliorated by a more than $1.8 million in additional state aid. The flip side, though, is that state aid decreased to the Gateway Technical College district and the Village of Pleasant Prairie. Kenosha County's state aid was essentially the same as last year. The lottery credit was down a few dollars.

In the end, the big culprit is the Kenosha Unified School District and it's high time the state legislature put real brakes on tax increases. That's easily said but just passing local levy limits -- which sure didn't help taxpayers this year -- isn't enough. The governor and legislature have a nasty habit of cost-shifting -- reducing state payments which means municipalities must pick up the slack.

Improving funding for schools to reduce the burden on the property tax is a great idea. It's been talked about for decades but nobody does anything about it. That said, we need to start putting the brakes on reckless school spending and it starts here at home.

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