Thursday, January 17, 2008

The School District Mismanagement Referendum

Voters in the Kenosha Unified School District are being sold a bill of goods by the school board's hype of the upcoming referendum questions to build and staff a new high school at Indian Trail Academy.

The first problem is that it's being sold as a "high school overcrowding" referendum.

Yeah, right.

When the school board did away with junior high schools that meant ninth grade students were sent directly into high school buildings designed as three-year high schools. Do you really think that had nothing to do with "overcrowding?"

And then we're told that the construction referendum is a "no cost" deal because retirement of existing debt would essentially "wash" the actual tax increase. The flip side of that would be that if the referendum was defeated and the school never built taxes would decrease.

The double-whammy comes from the staffing referendum which is being sold as a mere $22 a year tax hike on an average home. Hmmm.

First, you can't really build the school and not staff it, so the separate referenda really is an insult to the intelligence of the voters. The truth is that if the new school is built there will be a tax increase.

Speaking of tax increases, the school board has a lot of guts looking for more money after a walloping 5.1% tax hike this year.

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.

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. On top of all this the Kenosha school tax rate was ameliorated by a more than $1.8 million in additional state aid.

The school board failed taxpayers and students by not adequately planning and budgeting for increased enrollment. School buildings don't last forever and replacements should have been anticipated and money set aside each year for this purpose.

The Pleasant Prairie village board caught some heat this year when it raised property taxes but at least a chunk of that is going to pay for a road program that should have been launched years ago.

The school board, however, wants voters to bail them out of their mismanagement. We shouldn't.

No comments: