Saturday, May 3, 2008

Pleasant Prairie has every right to question school district

Allow to me to ask you this question: If you paid for two gallons of gas but only received one, what would you think? What would you do?

That scenario sums up the situation where village of Pleasant Prairie taxpayers cough up one-fourth of the Kenosha Unified School District's revenues for educating less than one-eighth of the district's students.

On that basis alone village residents, through their village board, have every right to weigh in on how the district is being run.

In the days before Kenosha Unified -- when there was a "joint" school district -- the Pleasant Prairie and Somers town chairmen met with the Kenosha city council as the fiscal control board. The school board prepared the school budget but the fiscal control board approved the tax levy which, in essence, gave the final say to the city council and town chairmen.

Nowadays the village board appoints a school commission which is supposed to serve as a liaison between the village and the school district but, except for staging candidate forums, hasn't done much.

That may -- and should -- change.

The village board wisely asked the school commission to look into the risky financial shenanigans pulled by the school board which went out and borrowed money to invest in the functional equivalent of risky junk bonds. The district's investments have lost half their value and what may have seemed like a good idea at the time is being called into question today.

Before anyone shoots off about what business does the village board have looking into the affairs of the school district, I'll tell you.

It's not uncommon for major stockholders -- particularly pension funds -- to weigh in on how the corporations they invest in are managed. These funds often carry a lot of clout when it comes to whacking reckless corporate management into line.

When the village is paying for two gallons but only getting one, there's every right and, in fact, a duty to speak out.

Much ado was made -- but little done -- a few years ago when the tax equity study showed that the village and the city were paying a disproportionate share of the county budget when compared with services actually received.

Here we have a clear and distinct inequity that, coupled with the school board's risky business ventures, compels that the village weigh in.

I've long argued that the school commission should either be given some real work to do or be disbanded. I congratulate the board for at least making some effort to give the commission a meaningful assignment but maybe it's still not enough.

There's been an undercurrent for several months about whether the village should form its own school district. Maybe it's possible, maybe it isn't. Maybe it's feasible, maybe it isn't. My initial look at this suggests that it might need some legislative action to accomplish but the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. We won't know if we don't give it a serious examination.

When village taxpayers are paying for two gallons and only getting one, nobody can fault this board for taking action to protect the best interests of taxpayers of today and, perhaps more important, the taxpayers of tomorrow.

1 comment:

new neighbor said...

Maybe, just maybe PP would be worse off than we are now if we started a PPSD. Maybe (relatively speaking) we'd be paying for 3 or 4 gallons but only receive one.

One possible way to have a better idea is to study the issue using business models.