Residents Turn Out in Force to Approve 3.7% Tax Levy Increase

Roughly 150 Whitefish Bay residents voted unanimously in favor of a school district budget that would increase taxes by a maximum of 3.7 percent compared to last year.

About 150 residents came to the Whitefish Bay School Board's annual meeting Wednesday night to unanimously approve a .

Advocates For Education, an organization aimed at promoting quality public education in Whitefish Bay, urged many residents to come to the meeting to prevent any possible surprises in the voting outcome – like last year's meeting, when a group of residents .

Advocates For Education President Liz Sanders said she was pleased to see such a large turnout Wednesday night in the humid high school auditorium.

"On behalf of Advocates For Education, I would like to express our delight with the number of education supporters that attended the meeting," she said. "It is an honor to be part of a community that can endure sauna-like conditions to ensure our schools have the resources they need to succeed."

Under the budget for the 2012-13 school year, the estimated property tax levy will increase by 3.37 percent to $21.8 million. That levy could be adjusted by the board when the levy is ratified on Nov. 1. In the meantime, the district's budget numbers could shift as it receives more information in late September about enrollment numbers, as well as the certification of final state aid numbers on Oct. 15.

Under the budget, the owner of a $400,000 home would pay $4,352 in school taxes — a $142 increase from last year. The assessed tax rate is $10.88 per $1,000, a 35-cents-per-$1,000 increase over last year's tax rate.

Last year, the same homeowner saw their .

However, Shawn Yde, the district's director of business services, said the tax increase could be much lower than that, because the state will likely give the district more state aid than the district budgeted for.

Yde said he budgeted on a $269,000 decrease in state aid, but in late July, the state Department of Public Instruction estimated the district would actually see a $208,000 increase in state aid.

If the DPI is correct in its projections, the district would receive an additional $477,000 in revenue, bringing the the tax levy from a 3.7 percent increase to a 1.1 percent increase over last year's levy. The $142 tax increase on a $400,000 house would drop to a $46 increase.

"Depending how state aid comes in...I would expect that number to be closer to a $46 increase than a $142 increase," Yde said.

The district expects to receive $9.3 million in state aid, which makes up 31 percent of the district's revenue. The projected $9.3 million includes $2.2 million in integration aid from the Chapter 220 program and $7.1 million in state equalization aid.

The district added the equivalent of 1.83 full-time employees this year. Twenty-four new teachers were hired this year, most of which were hired to replace teachers that left the district or were reassigned within the district.

The district's enrollment is expected to increase by 59 students this year, according to Information Management Systems, a consultant hired by the district. Those numbers will be known for certain when the state releases enrollment numbers on the third Friday of September.

The School Board reduced some ongoing costs this year by . The benefit modifications are expected to save the district $2 million per year.

Bob McBride September 07, 2012 at 03:20 PM
I seriously doubt that would leave us with crappy schools. As for the sewers - who cares, right? Your house is safe. And to be honest, based on the proposed fixes and simultaneous changes being made to the sanitary system, the results are likely to be a wash. But if you're not willing to gamble, then I'd rather see the entire burden for our school system fall on the property taxpayer (including myself, obviously), rather than having it diluted and made more palatable with state funds. Maybe if the folks who moved to WFB for the schools actually had to foot the entire bill directly, they'd realize that fancy cafeterias and overblown music wings and approving everything the school board desires not only costs a lot and actually decreases the value of their homes by markedly increasing property taxes associated with them, but really doesn't increase the chances of their kids being accepted at Stout or Parkside, either.
Shorelander September 07, 2012 at 03:33 PM
Bob, your offer was for a "20 year moratorium on any increases in the school budget" .. in order to do that, you'd need to freeze salaries and benefits for that period, not to mention, things like make a deal with the gas and electric company not to pass on any rate increases (ad infinitum.) After 20 years, the $50k teacher would be making $29k in today's dollars. Who'd work there? Or maybe you'd like to double class sizes, so we could have half as many teachers? 20 years of no increases = crappy schools, zero doubt .. but you knew all that. As for your eliminate state aid proposal .. we agree, although for different reasons. WFB gets the short end of the stick, with the rest of the state's districts paying ~34% of their community's education expense, while WFB pays 61% for their children. Ending state aid would reduce our total tax burden, property and income tax combined.
Bob McBride September 07, 2012 at 03:44 PM
Sort of like when you were being "sarcastic", no? I honestly don't care why you would agree on the state aid end of it. It's the right thing to do, particularly in a Village like WFB. And since it's constantly used as a selling point/rationalization on these increases (see you, above) it does force the residents to consider the actual cost associated with the stuff they agree to. Maybe some day we'll have enough residents on both sides of the equation interested enough to show up and have a real vote on the issue, rather than just a bunch of panic-stricken parents who think they're giving their kids a leg up on their way to achieving a poll-sci degree by agreeing to anything the school board tells them they have to have.
Shorelander September 07, 2012 at 07:43 PM
Sorry, Bob, it's far harder to tell when anti-tax people are being sarcastic about proposals like that. Not only were there no salary increases in this budget, education spending was up a whopping .22% from last year. Being a curious guy, I just looked up the last 4 years of WFB spending (not tax levy .. non-capital dollars expended). If you adjust for inflation from 2008, WFB spends 3.2% less in 2012 than 2008, meaning the district's non-capital spend hasn't kept up with inflation over FOUR years, not just for the Act 10 year. Not only are expenses being trimmed, they are decreasing over these 4 years. Sound like a district with excess spending? We did have a "real vote" on education spending via referendums, and those who approved beat those who did not, 58 to 42. -- But this budget isn't about convincing "panic stricken" parents to spend more money, it's to maintain the status quo. Yeah, state aid went down, so local taxpayers have to pick up the slack if they want to maintain that status quo. Your neighbors do, regardless of your desire they did not.
Shorelander September 07, 2012 at 07:47 PM
Perhaps you forgot, the referendum debt for the "5 star cafeteria" was *replacing* debt that was expiring, meaning the tax burden didn't increase from the prior year upon passage, it simply didn't decrease due to the prior debt expiring, which was then replaced with new debt. Thus, it didn't "jack up" your taxes, and isn't the cause you can't sell your house (or more likely, haven't tried. We'd all like you to be happier in a different location, Bob.) Seriously, don't you find it ironic that you're demanding $110m in sewer repairs, while continually bemoaning $20m in school upgrades*? (* $13m of the $20m wasn't even upgrades, it was maintenance.)
Bob McBride September 07, 2012 at 08:07 PM
Like I said, take the state aid element out of it completely and lets see if the desire to spend as much as we have been remains the same. If it does so, be it. At least we won't have you and others like Yde suggesting we're really not spending as much as we are due to the state covering a portion of the increase. Anything can happen...including the number of opponents showing up to vote down an increase outnumbering those there to give it the thumbs up.
Bob McBride September 07, 2012 at 08:19 PM
No, I didn't forget that at all. I remember that being one of the big selling points. Don't save for a rainy day (literally) - sign up for another mountain of debt so junior and juniorette don't have to eat in a sub 5-star facility while in grade school and we can indulge their (and their parents) fantasy of a future in music when they reach HS. That make as a lot of sense.
Shorelander September 07, 2012 at 08:29 PM
Bob, I'd really like to hear an answer to my question. How do you reconcile your desire to spend whatever it takes ($110m or more) to fix the sewers, but piss and moan about $13m for school maintenance, $9m for upgrades?
shorelander fan September 07, 2012 at 08:45 PM
The reality is that 140+ people was big news. There were a lot of reasons for people to miss this meeting but over 100 people attended. On average there are less than 5 people at a School Board meeting. Past annual meetings were small enough to take place in an extended classroom. This was a remarkable showing of support for the school board and the schools. The district and the board should be commended by everyone, including those who don't want to pay for services because they have worked very hard to maintain a quality product while trimming costs. Be sure to check out their report on energy use and facility improvements for evidence of that. As a parent with children at the schools I can assure you that no one is experiencing Cadillac anything. Because of decreased funding there are classes that are replacing textbooks less often, classes that have eliminated materials like workbooks, and teachers who have eliminated lessons or asked parents to supply the materials needed. I recommend that anyone who questions the operation of the schools attend the school board meetings. I learn something new every time I go.
shorelander fan September 07, 2012 at 08:46 PM
To Bob and others who bemoan spending on education I really have only one question. What do you expect to happen to our country if we don't educate our children? The truth is there are some very big issues in the future of this world and we will need the best and brightest to help find solutions. I chose this community because I knew that it values education. I spent as much on a small house built in the 50's as some people spend on McMansions to the west. I want to live here and willingly pay the taxes to do so because I think that it is the right thing to do. I am very proud of the people who attended that meeting on Wednesday. They understand the importance of investing in our children.
Bob McBride September 07, 2012 at 08:48 PM
And I'd like to know your name, but I'm guessing that's not gonna happen, is it? I'm not demanding $110MM to get the sewers fixed. That's what I'm being told by the Village it's gong to cost to fix the problem and, frankly, based on the way they describe the fix I'm not sure it even makes sense or that I won't be in a more vulnerable position between the time they address the sanitary portion of the project and when they finally get around to fixing the storm water portion of it. But there does have to be something done. As a "Schools Uber Alles" advocate yourself, you should recognize that because if we get storms like we did two years ago, two of your newly remodeled facilities have a good chance of succumbing to more flooding, despite the retention pond build next to one of them. I don't set the prices, I can only offer an opinion on priorities and at this point anyone who thinks sewers shouldn't be a priority can only be considered a clueless, nameless boob - despite their interest in education. Had we not spent money on two pointlessly ornate cafeterias and a non-essential music wing, we'd be that much further along in paying for the sewer upgrade. But, again, saving for a rainy day - not in our mindset, apparently. But as a said before, take away the smoke and mirrors going forward (state funding, sales jobs involving retired debt, comparing apples to oranges, etc) and lets see what happens.
Shorelander September 07, 2012 at 08:48 PM
Ah, the inevitable comment that since the 2009 Referendum didn't have 100% voter turnout, it's not a valid survey of the public. Well, sorry, it's the best one we have. Truth is, turnout for that referendum was unusually high, at 41%, that bests the last two poll days, for Republican presidential (38% turnout) and Senate (28%). No one can blame an odd result on the lack of participation. It doesn't take a big imagination to believe the majority of WFB values education highly and understands its correlation to their property values, then votes accordingly.
Bob McBride September 07, 2012 at 09:05 PM
Who said they don't want to educate the children? There's an extremely long distance between the kinds of money this community throws at stuff like cafeterias music wings and various other upgrades and not educating children. This is the goofy kind of argument you people always put forth. If you don't get exactly what you want, when you want then someone's trying to deny your kid an education. \How do communities not as wealthy as this one manage it? Are all their kids going directly from substandard schooling to ditch digging? We've got some other issues in this Village besides cafeterias, music wings, pumpkin carving, 4th of July celebrations, ice cream socials and concerts on Silver Spring. We've got some ugly, not very interesting infrastructure issues to address as well. Gotta be done and the money's got to come from somewhere. It's time to start looking at everything closely, including schools.
Shorelander September 08, 2012 at 02:51 AM
Who are you calling a clueless, nameless boob, "Bob McBride"? Can't you argue well enough to keep yourself from a childish attack like that? Misplaced, too, as I said I'd pay for your sewer upgrades. And I promise not to piss and moan about it. But remember, it's a higher priority FOR YOU to have the sewers fixed, and oh yeah, of the 4900 homes in WFB, "only" 1200 of them had a drop of water in their basement, so that might not be high priority for the rest of WFB. Meanwhile, nearly double that number have kids in school. A post below suggested trustees didn't want sewer spending to go to referendum. That would be an interesting referendum, frankly, unpredictable. Roughly three-quarters of WFB was dry during 2010. Perhaps those voters would take a page out of your book and decline paying for your sewer upgrades. Hey, you're only going to flood every few years, Bob. The schools are open every year. As for you suggesting I'm a "Schools Uber Alles" advocate; hogwash. I think the funding of the schools is adequate, and their annual budgeting is reasonable, not based on an uncontrollable yearning for education spending, but I find that the district is responsible with the dollars we give them. That WFB spends less inflation adjusted dollars than it did in 2008, being 132rd in spending per pupil .. is a testament to that.
Shorelander September 08, 2012 at 02:54 AM
Bob, all those events, pumpkins, 4th of July, and concert on Silver Spring .. they are all paid for by donations, not by your tax dollar. Seriously, Bob, you need to move out of WFB and find a place you can be happier.
Bob McBride September 08, 2012 at 03:14 AM
I'm calling you a clueless, nameless boob, Shorelander. And until you correct me with a real name an not some made up moniker you can hide behind and take shots from, thats all you are. Of course it's a higher priority for me to have the sewers fixed. I'm directly effected by the deficiency. And I don't have any kids in the school system. So when some self-important, anonymous, troll comes on here and suggests I need to accept a system that allows 140 people out of a population of 16000 some odd to green light a 3.7% tax increase or that I've got no business pointing out the foolishness in blowing $9MM on a couple of unneeded cafeterias and a music wing, I'm going to call them out for what they are. Don't like it? Man or woman up, put your real name out there and stand behind the bravado.
Bob McBride September 08, 2012 at 03:21 AM
I know they're not tax funded. I'm pointing out that there are some things nobody really gets jazzed about that, despite that, need some attention around here. I'd love to move out of the Bay. I've spent enough of my life in this village. I came back reluctantly to appease someone. The place really isn't all that. But I'm not in a position to take the kind of hit I'd have to take to move back to the truly nice area (with equally good schools, btw) I was in prior to returning. So until something happens in that regard, you're stuck with me. Enjoy.
Shorelander September 09, 2012 at 03:07 PM
"Bob McBride" can't be found in the phone book nor WFB online property records. Shorelander is equally anonymous as you are, "Bob." Amazing that I have quoted stats, vote totals and dollar amounts, and you call me "clueless." I understand why though. You don’t have facts and figures, so you resort to namecalling. Try debating the issue instead of ad hominem attacks. You suggest that "140 people out of a population of 16000" (WFB's population is 14,182, but I’m clueless) yields an illegitimate result. Hogwash. It’s bogus to challenge the legitimacy of those results based on who you believe didn't show up: the other 14,042 (or at least half of) Bay people who most certainly think the way you do. They do not. Due to the obvious conclusion one can draw from referendum results: in a survey of people who cared to vote (and get to make the rules) a majority of them are OK with “foolishly” spending money on schools. But feel free to go on thinking the majority of your neighbors would have fought this budget. Free country.
Shorelander September 09, 2012 at 03:08 PM
That makes no sense. People get plenty “jazzed” about those events, they are wildly popular. Maybe you don’t attend them, though. You should, perhaps being around neighbors, enjoying themselves of what their village provides, would decrease your unhappiness of living here. On the other hand, you need to run for Village or School Board and bring light to all these things that “need some attention around here.”
Bob McBride September 09, 2012 at 03:18 PM
I'm a resident, Shorelander. I'm on the voting records and my driver's license and tax records list me as a resident as well. I doubt the same can be said for "Shorelander". Noting that you're hiding behind a fake name is not an ad hominem attack, it's a fact. We have a system that allows 140 people to approve a 3.7% tax increase. That's also a fact. If we want to be fair all the way around, we'd put both the school related tax increase AND the sewer issue on referendums and vote on them - if we're going to vote on this stuff at all. Otherwise we might as well just let the school board do as it wishes w/o some sort of pretend "vote" held during a regular meeting. The implication is that the Village as a whole unanimously approved the budget, when in fact it was just a small, special interest group that did so. I'm just calling things out for what they are, using my real name. You're too afraid to use your real name to attempt to refute my points, which are indeed valid. Can't say I blame you, but still, it's rather cowardly.
Shorelander September 09, 2012 at 03:46 PM
Saying I'm anonymous isn't the ad hominem attack I refer to. "Clueless," "self-important" and "boob" are, however, "Bob." It would be interesting to see the results of a sewer referendum, and I'm all for letting the people have a vote. As for the way in which the School District passes their annual levy, well, take that up with the State of Wisconsin, since most school districts do this. It's not unique to WFB. -- But even if it was, how could you complain? In a political universe where elected people make nearly every decision, this method allows some form of direct legislation from the people. Last year, a group of citizens came very close to succeeding, cutting the budget where the SB (and populace) disagreed. Would you rather they didn't have the opportunity at all? I see your viewpoint, though. You want $110m in sewers because it affects you, but you reject keeping the education spending status-quo // $9m in school upgrades as "foolish" because you don't have kids in the system. Got it.
Bob McBride September 09, 2012 at 03:51 PM
Perhaps I didn't phrase that correctly. What I meant is that there are issues in this Village, like sewers for instance, that people don't get jazzed about as they do the schools, pesticides (another overblown issue, frankly), ice cream socials, pumpkin carving, 4th of July celebrations, holiday "strolls", etc - that need to be attended to and are actually of a greater urgency and importance than most of those I mentioned. Just because your home isn't effected by flooding (and by you, I mean the general you - particularly since in your case, "you" doesn't exist) doesn't mean other facilities, like schools, that you use won't be. And while "you" (in this case I am referring to "you", even though you're not really "you") claim to be okay with paying for the sewers - many are not - whether or not they've taken into consideration that some schools are vulnerable as well. Which I can accept. Which is why I'm willing suggest we put the issue to a legitimate, village wide referendum where a vote can be taken in the regular fashion. I actually think it should be. It's an enormous expenditure and, maybe, by doing so and requiring it be put to vote in total in a specific time frame, it wouldn't have been, and continue to be, kicked down the road. But the same process should be applied to any school taxes we're going to impose if we're going to suggest that they've been "approved" via a vote by Village residents.
Bob McBride September 09, 2012 at 04:00 PM
Shorelander, it can't be an ad hominem attack against a non-individual. You're not Shorelander. Again, let's put both issues to a referendum. I don't believe there's a law that says that can't be done. If we want to gauge the true degree to which the community supports, or doesn't, either issue - that's the way to do it. I'm perfectly willing to do it with the sewer issue and let the chips fall where they may. Those who belong to "Advocates for Education" should be willing to do so as well, if they honestly believe they represent the viewpoint of of the majority of Village residents. Are they?
Bob McBride September 09, 2012 at 04:07 PM
And as for last year, I'm familiar with what happened last year and the panic on the part of those who thought it might get voted down. Should that ever happen with the existing system (and if you think there aren't more than 140 people in this village who don't support the increase, I think you're fooling yourself) because the opposition managed to outnumber those in favor, you can bet the first group decrying the method as unfair and demanding that the rule be changed would be "Advocates for Education".
Shorelander September 10, 2012 at 03:20 AM
“Let’s put both issues to a referendum.” “Bob,” the annual school board levy meeting is exactly a public referendum. That the vote is by voice instead of by ballot is true, but any taxpayer who wants to vote, can do exactly that, yea or nay. Arguing as you are, that AFE “should be willing to do so” (have a referendum each year) is, well, daffy because the annual budget is approved by public vote already. The AFE wouldn’t demand, nor fight a change the way the levy is approved as they know they have the will of the people on their side and will "win" either way. Perhaps you theorize that a paper vote would have a different outcome. You know that would not be true. You know the village has elected these school board members by paper ballot. You know how the referendums turned out, by paper ballot. You know a majority of your WFB neighbors value education highly, and are willing to pay for it. You wish it weren’t so, but it is, and you know that.
Shorelander September 10, 2012 at 03:48 AM
I'm legitimately curious what other issue(s), besides sewers, are not being attended to in the Village. Explain? It's odd for you to suggest the public's annual school board meeting is an illegitimate way to approve the budget, like the result would be different using any other method, like a paper ballot. It wouldn't, and as I said above, you know that.
Bob McBride September 10, 2012 at 04:54 AM
I don't know that having the budget approval vote handled as a referendum put on a regular ballot, with polls open as they would be for an election would necessarily net the same results - nor do you. I'd find the results of a vote taken in that fashion at least as interesting as you've indicated you would a similar vote taken regarding the sewer issue. I think it's well worth considering. Who could possibly be against opening the process up to folks for whom an evening meeting might not be the ideal time to vote or who might not even be aware of such a vote being held? Certainly, having an opportunity for more of the Village's residents to weigh in the on the issue would be a good thing, would it not?
Bob McBride September 10, 2012 at 01:25 PM
I didn't say they weren't being attended to - those are your words. They are being "attended to" - but, due to their nature as it relates to those things that seem to interest most of the population, they tend not to garner the attention or sense of urgency some of the more trivial issues in this Village do. I'd suggest you attend a few Village Board meetings. They can be eye opening. Then again, given the way you seem to prefer things be done, you probably wouldn't have a problem with single source bidding on projects ranging from tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars, in some cases pushed through upon the recommendation of the Village Manager, despite objections by some members of the board - because that's the way it's always been done. Two such instances I witnessed related to letting out an year long auditing contract to a former employer of the person recommending the contract and a bid related to the maintenance/reconstruction of the water tower. And those were just at the meetings I attended which, frankly, wasn't the majority of them. You sure don't want a regular public vote held on that school budget, do you? I think you've made that pretty clear.
shorelander fan September 11, 2012 at 02:16 AM
There was a public vote on the School District's budget. It took place September 5th. Every household in WFB received notice that the vote was to take place. Next year every household will receive notice again. If 2000 people show up for that vote all will be given a chance to do so. It is the law. Or Bob, would you prefer that this yearly process take place in a way that cost taxpayers additional money? Balloted elections that utilize our polling places are not free.
Bob McBride September 11, 2012 at 11:45 AM
That doesn't address the issue of people for whom voting at a night meeting is a problem. As for the cost, perhaps we'd end up saving money if the budget wasn't being rubber stamped by a special interest group every year. The bottom line is you people don't want a standard vote at the polls because you'd have no way of judging which way it was going and, therefore, you'd be unable to text all your buddies to hurry up and come in to vote, if necessary. It would also increase potential for more senior citizen involvement, as they are less likely to go out at night to vote and are also more likely to vote against the budget. And you don't want that. If you had no fear of potentially losing under a regular vote, you'd not object to it. You're willing to put the sewer thing to a referendum vote and, unless you were suggesting that be done at an informational meeting where those most concerned with sewer problems are more likely to be in attendance and they could use the same methodology to call in reinforcements if it looked like the vote wasn't going their way, then that's going to have some cost associated with it as well. Cut the crap. You like the system the way it is because the odds are in your favor. What we need to do, if the process isn't going to change is to stop referring to it as a vote of approval by "residents" and call it what it actually is - an endorsement of the budget by "Advocates for Education".


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