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Proposed School Budget Calls for 4.43% Tax Levy Increase

As state aid is expected to fall for Wauwatosa Public Schools, district officials try to make ends meet with tools available to them.

The would increase its share of the property tax levy by 4.43 percent under the proposed 2012-2013 budget.

The budget plan will be presented Monday night to the School Board, which meets at 7 p.m. in the lower level boardroom at the Fisher Building, 12121 W. North Ave.

The total tax levy for next year would be $44,584,971, up from $42,692,217 for the current school year.

The total tax rate would be $8.908 per $1,000 valuation, resulting in a school tax levy of $2,227 on a $250,000 home. That's in increase of $94 over the levy on the same home in 2011-2012, when the tax bill was $2,133.

Total revenues for the coming year would be $78,907,835 under the proposed budget, up 1.14% from a year ago, but expenditures will actually fall by 1.5 percent.

Compensation costs – by far the largest share of the budget – will rise, particularly in benefits.

While salary costs are expected to increase by only about 0.5 percent next year because of a salary freeze agreed to by teachers and staff, benefits costs are expected to rise 6.5 percent.

Meanwhile, revenue from federal, state and local sources other than property tax levies could fall by nearly $1 million, with the lion's share, $900,000, expected to be a reduction in state aid.

For those who thought the state budget adopted last year precluded property tax increases by local governments, what is true for the City of Wauwatosa is not the same for its schools.

District Business Services Director John Mack said that levy increases within the state-imposed revenue cap are allowed for a number of factors – all of which, he said, are controlled by the state.

"If equalization aid goes down, then we are allowed to increase the levy," he said.

There is a provision for a $50 per pupil increase, Mack said, and other factors, such as decreased enrollment through Chapter 220, also allow for levy increases.

Mack said that the proposed tax levy was based on "an educated guess" as to where the state will go with equalization aid this year.

"It could be lower, it could be higher," Mack said. The actual figures from the state will not be available for awhile, but the School District needs to adopt a budget next month regardless. Adjustments can be made in the fall when final state figures on aid are in.

The property tax levy portion of the School District's budget and state-generated resources were briefly equal at about 47 percent in 2002, and since then the state's portion has fallen to an expected 29.88 percent, with the local tax levy climbing to 55.75 percent.

Historically, property taxes for schools have been much higher, reaching a peak, in inflation adjusted dollars, of $54.9 million, when they accounted for 75 percent of the annual budget.

alt ideas needed May 21, 2012 at 11:44 PM
yep, makes sense. Wauwatosa is taxing their residents and people are moving out.
Alfred May 21, 2012 at 11:49 PM
No leadership at all on this school board, complete spineless wimps. Cut heads, do not stick it to the taxpayers
jbw May 22, 2012 at 03:39 AM
What exactly are the benefits costs that are spiraling out of control? Are we talking about health insurance? I've seen the high-deductible policy I buy out of pocket rise around 15% a year, which is just absurd. We really need to break the cycle of hyper-inflation in healthcare. You know, the one where the medical school says "we have to at least double tuition every ten years to pay for the best doctors and new technology", the doctors say "we have to make more than $250k a year just to pay our gigantic student loans, and the health insurance company says "we have to hike premiums massively every year to keep paying whatever providers want". I don't want guaranteed free heart bypass surgery or new knees and hips, I just want to be able to pay a reasonable amount to be insured against accidental injury like an encounter with that nurse that runs over kids on her way to work.
John T. Pokrandt May 22, 2012 at 12:56 PM
No one likes paying taxes but in the end it's a question of return on investment. The vast majority of people I know chose to live in Wauwatosa for the top notch school district. If the school district can keep its levy increase below 5% they are well below the 15% increase I see every year in insurance premiums. A community is defined by the quality of its schools, cut teachers and increase class sizes and you will see a corresponding decrease in the desirability of our community. When the state cuts aid the bills still have to be paid. The state essentially balanced its budget on the back of local municipalities.
alt ideas needed May 22, 2012 at 01:07 PM
John, I respect your opinion, but you are biased. "a vast majority of people I know chose to live in Wauwatosa for the top notch school district" A majority of people you know are probably also families with young kids. A quality public school district does not exist in Milwaukee County. If you want a good education for your kids, move to the suburbs. Also, a community is not defined by the quality of its schools. A community is defined by the quality of people and the quality of life they lead. Apparently, the community of Wauwatosa is divided and angry.
Dave Celata May 22, 2012 at 02:22 PM
No, there are indeed quality school districts in Milwaukee County. In fact, multiple Milwaukee County schools districts have better results than many "suburban" districts. Check out this report from the Public Policy Forum for a clear presentation of the facts: http://www.publicpolicyforum.org/pdfs/2011SchoolingPoster.pdf Also note that the property tax revenue per pupil for a student in Wauwatosa seems to be competitive given the city's comparative affluence visa vie poorer and wealthier districts (this source of revenue goes up for wealthier districts b/c they get less shared revenue). A strong community requires a diverse, inter-generational population. I do agree that quality people and a quality of life helps define a community, but these alone are not sufficient. Strong schools ensure the attraction of "new blood" that sustain communities over the long-term. If we start divesting in our schools (or flat lining our investments) we risk becoming penny wise and pound foolish. After all, what's the benefit of saving a couple of bucks on our property taxes this year, if 10 years from now our properties are worth less because young families aren't moving into our community any longer and driving up demand?
Random Blog Commenter May 22, 2012 at 03:24 PM
Mr. Price, What are the details with regard to the pay and benefits to the employees of the district? What type of health insurance plans are offered and the details of those plans? Are retirees getting insurance like they are in Shorewood? Who is the insurance provider of for Tosa schools? Has the school considered any significant iniitiative to maximize use of staff or will the status quo remain? There are indeed other questions out there that need to be asked. I am under the impression that most Tosa homeowners do not have children in the schools. Can you find out those statistics? This article provides a fair warning of a significant issue facing city residents but it does not yet have the details required for us to make fully informed, rationale opinion on the issue. What we have now is enough information for people with agendas -- such as candidates for public office -- to launch into rhetoric. I enjoyed reading your informative tree/sewer project article, I look forward to a similar level of investigation into the nuts and bolts of this issue. Please ask school officials the uncomfortable and challenging questions.
Jim Price May 22, 2012 at 06:12 PM
All good questions, RBC, and worthy of answers – and yes, there is much more to be written about the school budget. This is jut our first glance at a proposed budget that, as noted, is based on estimates of revenues and expenditures and won't be finalized until October. I have made note of the matters you and others are raising and will see to it they are covered well before then.
Tom Gaertner May 22, 2012 at 07:35 PM
To be fair - I moved to Tosa a long time ago because I had a daughter starting in school. I stayed because I happen to like the location and the community. Tosa Rules. Brookfield Drools...
3393 May 23, 2012 at 02:05 AM
With all due respect.....return on investment? You might not be aware of all the crap going on in the Middle and High schools in Tosa. There are a lot of fights and crime/thefts all the time at Tosa West. Administration is pretty tight lipped about it for obvious reasons. At Whitman.... swearing, fights and other unruly behavior are frequent. Residents are looking at private schools because Tosa is going down hill.
alt ideas needed May 23, 2012 at 02:13 AM
lets not forget that Tosa is directly adjacent to Milwaukee, the teen birth capital, and fecal matter in the basement capital of the US.
John T. Pokrandt May 23, 2012 at 02:35 PM
alt ideas: I am biased living in East Tosa, most of my neighbors do have young children. I've owned a home here for 11 years, when we first moved in most of our neighbors were elderly. As the older residents passed or moved out, young families moved in. Most of these people were looking for an urban setting with solid public schools. Without the demand from younger people moving in the homes wouldn't have commanded the premium they did. We need to attract young residents to keep our community vibrant and schools are a large part of the equation.
John T. Pokrandt May 23, 2012 at 02:37 PM
3393: Swearing and fights are common in every middle and high school in the country. I went to public school in a rural district and it was no different. Tosa does a good job educating our children, look at the test scores and math and reading results. There is always room for improvement but overall we are doing a good job in Wauwatosa.
3393 May 23, 2012 at 02:40 PM
When I was in high school I saw 1 fight. My child has seen 3 in the lunchroom within a 2 week period. It was frightening. The boys jumped the tables throwing fists and could only be taken down by multiple faculty. Following week there was a huge fight between girls as my child was walking down the hall. ( the end of fight was taped by a student....yes I saw it). You would be shocked at how violent they are. Minimizing the problems in Tosa schools is not the answer. Now to the Middle school....if you think throwing around FU's every couple minutes and causing chaos is like the olden days, you are wrong. I've heard the chaos myself and am very alarmed. I won't forget the time I got a call that my child was afraid in class.....doors were slamming, stuff was being thrown around and tempers were elevating. Very sad that you think this like when we went to school. That's why the problems persist.....leaders are in denial and don't want the great name of Tosa brought down. Wake up citizens. Throwing money at problems never works.
alt ideas needed May 23, 2012 at 05:01 PM
very True 3393. What is happening in the middle and high school level is NOT what we experienced as kids. Swearing and fist fighting was common in every school. Now it has elevated to gang banging and drug dealing. I am in my early thirties, born and raised in this area, and kids as well as society is changing, and not for the better. If you send your offspring to public middle school or high school in Tosa, there will be problems down the road - either directly on indirectly. How is a student supposed to learn when they are scared in their own classroom?

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