Yes, you read this right.
Citing high unemployment figures within the district, and the need to provide training for workers, Mason called upon the board to restore the 5.5% levy request the board appears ready to cut to 4.5%. The difference, he said, would amount to a tax increase of $1.20 on a home assessed at $100,000, while allowing hundreds more students to receive instruction.
This is the "the time for us to do everything possible to connect workers to job skills training and educational advancement," Mason said, noting that Gateway's summer enrollment is up 64% and unemployment is 10% within Racine County and 16% in the city of Racine.
His full statement is below:
I regret that state budget deliberations will keep me in the Capitol today and that I am unable to participate in person in the public hearing and discussion at Gateway. I appreciate all of those who have taken the time to attend this important Board meeting and commend the Board and members of the Gateway staff and administration for their leadership and dedication to the Racine area’s workforce during these challenging economic times.
As part of the state budget deliberations, we fought hard to maintain funding for the Wisconsin technical college system. Facing an unprecedented budget shortfall and an historic economic crisis, we recognized that the best investment we could make as a state is in our workforce. Ensuring that our technical colleges have the resources they need to train our community’s workers is the surest path to economic recovery and prosperity for Wisconsin. I am pleased that the state budget includes the first increase in general state aid for the technical colleges since 2001. Numerous organizations, including the District Boards Association, WEAC, AFT-WI, the GTC Administration and the WTCS State office, worked diligently and persistently to maintain and slightly increase funding for these vital institutions.
However, our efforts at the state level to maintain and provide a modest increase in technical college system funding were not intended to give those at the local level a pass on their own obligations to meet the needs of unemployed workers seeking training and opportunity. As Racine County’s unemployment rate holds steady at over 10% and the City of Racine experiences one of the highest unemployment rates in the state at 16%, it is the time for us to do everything possible to connect workers to job skills training and educational advancement.
As you know, Gateway is experiencing dramatically increased enrollment. Summer enrollment is already 64 percent ahead of last year’s. To fully serve the workers of Racine, Kenosha and Walworth counties who are out of work and seeking critically-needed skills and training, we must do all we can to open Gateway’s doors to these workers. A small increase in the levy will open Gateway’s doors to hundreds of local workers who will otherwise find waiting lists, overcapacity courses, or a lack of course offerings.
I appreciate and respect the thoughtfulness with which the Gateway Board has demonstrated in determining its tax levy request. While I understand the stated rationale behind the advancement of a 4.5% levy request, I am disappointed that the Board has backed away from its original request of a 5.5% levy request. Increasing the levy by an additional 1%, from 4.5 to 5.5%, would increase the tax on a $100,000 home by just $1.20 per year – a mere 10 cents per month. For the cost of a large cup of coffee at the corner market, Gateway would be able to enroll hundreds more students this year.
The workers in our community have been hard hit by the economic crisis. With this vote to establish Gateway’s levy rate, we have an opportunity to provide a targeted, vitally important investment in these workers and in their – and our – futures. I urge you to reconsider your levy request and take action to support your original request of 5.5%.
Thank you for all that you do to support and train the Racine-area’s workers.