July 8, 2009

Cut in state aid means Racine Unified facing steep property tax increase

Get ready for a property tax increase.

Racine Unified, like many school districts around the state, will face the troubling decision this fall of cutting spending or increasing property taxes to cover a $4.8 million decrease in general state aid.

The news came down this week as school officials came to realize the brutal impact the recently passed state budget will have on districts. (The news may be equally grim for local governments, which are also facing state aid cuts.)

Dave Hazen, Unified's finance officer, described the situation in terms of pie. The Legislature had already determined Unified would have a smaller pie next school year by reducing the annual increase in spending per student. (Yeah, yeah, we know this is a case of an increase being called a decrease, but in terms of budgets, it means a cut in services.)

Unified used the state number to pass a preliminary budget on June 15 that assumed a $3.4 million increase in general state aid. But after the Legislature and Gov. Jim Doyle passed the budget, Unified is now facing a $4.8 million decrease in state aid. (In southeastern Wisconsin, only Waukesha faces a larger decrease.)

Hazen explained that the only way to make up that money is to cut services or increase local property taxes. The district was already anticipating an increase of 15 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value in its preliminary budget. By our calculations, without any cuts in spending (and remember, the School Board already made cuts in its preliminary budget), the district could be looking at a $1 per $1,000 (13.9%) increase in property taxes (that's $150 on a home valued at $150,000, and doesn't include property tax increases from other governments).

The School Board's job over the summer will be to figure out how much of the lost state revenue to pass on to taxpayers and how much to address through cuts, Hazen said.

"The question is how big is the slice (from the state) going to cover and big are local property taxes going to cover," he said.

School districts all over Wisconsin are facing the same decision. Salem, Madison and Oshkosh are all in near-crisis mode after learning of the reductions in state aid. One in four districts around the state will lose 15 percent of their state aid. (Here's a list of state aid to regional school districts.)

Amazingly, Kenosha Unified is not one of the districts facing a cut in state aid. The district actually will receive a $600,000 increase from the state, Hazen said. State officials explained away the roughly 90 school districts who will receive an increase in state money as the product of a "complex" funding formula.

Hazen is still waiting for a response from the Department of Public Instruction on the discrepancy between Racine and Kenosha.

You may also wonder if any of the federal stimulus money could help offset the lost state aid. In a word, Hazen said: "No."

The federal money was already used to minimize cuts in the preliminary budget, he said. It also can only be used for specific purposes, such as special education or math and reading instruction in schools with low-income students.

So what does all of this mean? Look for an increased tax bill later this year. How big, at least Unified's share, must be determined by Oct. 15. The School Board will hold a public hearing on the budget in August before voting on the final budget for the 2009-2010 school year.


  1. Maybe the state understands the Kenosha school district is a better investment the RUSD. Throwing more money at RUSD in the past has not improved results - send your kids to a private school where you can guarantee positive results.

  2. Kenosha's higher amount reflects that they have a higher enrollment this year, while RUSD's declined, and at the same time RUSD has a higher equalized property value then Kenosha this year. More students and lower property values bring in more equalization aid.

    Kenosha would have gotten far more in aid if the budget cuts didn't happen.

  3. How about following the example of my employer - 0% increase for the next two years, and significant cuts throughout the organization!

  4. QEO is gone-bend over it Will be stuck to you.How about teachers PAYING 50% health benifits, like I do ??

  5. I'll gladly pay 50% of my health insurance benefits. That is, as long as I am compensated in pay equal to the private sector individuals with equal educational backgrounds!

  6. Unions have been the demise of every company in Racine - and that includes RUSD. Until teachers act like and become professionals instead of working a line in a plant the public school system in Racine will never improve no matter how much money you throw at it. RUSD has sucked ever since Jim Ennis was around.

  7. I am trying to understand the logic of anon 3:07. Did you pay for your own education or did that come in some form from your employment? I am asking because teachers seem to be making a lot compared to the average citizen.

    I don't think it fair if the public paid for your education that you charge us a higher rate.

  8. Anon 3:07-

    We have 6 paid holidays every year, and you can work your way up to 4 weeks of vacation after 20 years with the company. You can use your vacation days when you're sick, or decide not to get paid for the time off. There is no pension, you'll be signing up for the 401(K) program that does include a 25% match up to your first 4% of contributions. The company encourages us all to do this, since we're funding our own retirement plan. There really isn't a "bump" based on your education, your compensation is tied to experience, performance and results. Non-performers get weeded out around here pretty fast. Even if he or she is a PhD. Your compensation will be reviewed based on similar companies and adjusted. And "adjusted" can mean decreases, too. Based on the economy, we're not getting raises this year. When times are good and the company is successful, we sometimes get bonuses, but they're not expected. Most of us are pretty happy with the work we do, the people we work with, and even the company. Come join us in the private sector!

  9. Urban Pioneer7/08/2009 5:01 PM

    Furthermore Anon 3:07. If my company turns out a product failure rate of 30%, despite overpaying for the labor involved in the production, I don't get to tell the customer "Tough Luck", it's not our fault. When I do have a bad year I don't get to go force my customers to pay 4-20% more for the same result next year. Also those professional people with College degrees don't use thug "Slow down" tactics when we don't get our way. That sort of behavior would result in disciplinary action, or dismissal.
    Your job is whatever needs to get done to accomplish the company goal of "Selling" the customer a worthwhile product. i.e. Graduates that can read their diploma's. I'm not anti-teacher...I'm pro-education, in the competitive market the Public school employees are OVER paid. Over benefited! If i'm wrong then why do they fight so vehemently of full access to School choice across the State for EVERY Child.

    I'll tell you why because; It's not "for the Children", it's for the Union. It's not "Every child deserves a great School"; rather It's every Child deserves a mediocre school run by the Union!

  10. Urban Pioneer7/08/2009 5:03 PM

    Immediately expand School choice across the State to every kid and the shortfall will disappear!!! No taxes will rise, and children's education will improve.

    Let's try it..this isn't working.

  11. What legal options exists that would allow the District to be freed from the Union? Does anyone know?

  12. Try it. See how many board members lose there jobs

  13. The Teachers Union is not the problem at RUSD. Principals and Parents are the problem. Most teachers do exactly what they are paid to do and much more.When parents fail to extend the teaching in their homes and principals fail to discipline kids or fail to support the teachers... the system fails.

    Are schools also would not be falling apart if we did not have such lazy custodial staff. Principals need to make sure they do their jobs and for our kids sake... the custodians should not be spending hours a day on their cell phones when they should be working.

    Poor work ethic, no accountability, and principals with no back bones (Gifford excluded)... That is the problem at RUSD.

    I would gladly pay 3 times the tax needed to create a quality education system at Unified if I knew the money would go to the right place... but the more we throw at it the worse it becomes.

    Our Central office alone has more employees than any other district of it's size.... explain that!

  14. sorry for the typos above "Are" should be "Our"

  15. Anyone in elected office who backs anymore taxes for any reason short of a war, will not have Colt's support.
    We have to cut back at home companies have to cut back time GOVERNMENT does the same.
    Note to RUSD try passing say 55% of your students before asking for anymore of our money.

  16. Put it this way, for all of you that think that teachers "make so much money": My wife has a master degree that WE ARE PAYING FOR, with student loans. She has worked for a Wisconsin district for 9 years and receives 46,800 dollars a year in monetary compensation. Yes she does have good health insurance benefits which we contribute 1700.00 a year for. She does have good benefits when it comes to time off as well. We don't normally complain about her salary as we know she has good benefits. There is a trade off. Please though, do not tell me that the average person in the private sector makes the same amount. The average private sector MA degree employee averages 77,000 per year.
    I also find it funny when people complain about the failure rate of students somehow being a product of what the teacher does or does not do. I have my own opinions on what the real problem is, and it has very little to do with the teacher. When I hear the horror stories of parent actions in schools I realize that parent action or inaction has much more to do with student success than anything else.

  17. I would never say the teachers are over paid - but let's really show how much they are making. They work 9 months a year so at $46,800 that approximately $5,200 a month. Now if you figured this on a 12 month basis, an additional $5,200 for three months, that would be $62,400. That may be less than the private sector, but it does not sound that bad to me when to consider all the additional benefit and also most private sector jobs these days are puting in well over 40 hrs. per week. It is not uncommon to put in 50 - 60 hrs. per week.

  18. All you teachers quit your whining. Your average comp is in the mid 80's including benefits.

    And the rest of us do not get to retire as early, we don't get lifetime benefits, we don't get off 3 months per year, and believe it or not, many of us great unwashed citizens who pay you have just as much education as you do.

    Quit whining.

    The rest of us are making huge sacrifices while you cry about how "bad" you have it.

    Grow up or quit. (because even if you suck we can't fire you)

  19. "The average private sector MA degree employee averages 77,000 per year."

    Where in the world did you get this number? You'd be lucky to get this with five years industry experience with a PhD - a real one too, not the mail order (fake) or "I transferred my life experiences to a PhD" kind. Count up all the masters and PhDs who aren't working at all and your almost-impossible-to-be-fired-from teaching positions with healthy benefit packages (bad pun, I know) look pretty good.

  20. Lots of openings in education ~ all of you who think it's great should get into it. You'll be rolling in the dough!

  21. Anon 9:56 - where are the openings. Maybe I will look into it. I'd love to have my summers off.

  22. Not sure as I don't teach but it sure sounds like a great gig!

  23. Here are the facts. Either you pay more in taxes or the school system makes more cuts and packs more students into a classroom. The bottom line is the ratio of adults to children decreases. Period. How can that be good in a system that is already out of control?

    For all of you who are talking about the failure rate... Think about this. Most companies have a bottom standard of quality they will accept in raw materials. They have buyers that go out and find the best raw materials to make their product. Public schools do not have that option.

    Every child, whether they want to be there or not, whether they have ever learned manners or socialization, whether they have the proper basic needs or the will to cooperate must attend. Food, shelter, proper medical care, or parental support is lacking in many of these children. Laws state they must be in school. This means that the school is dealing with all the problems of society in children who are often of the victims of this (gangs, drugs, violence).

    It would be great to walk into a classroom to see 35 children ready and willing to learn. So much could be accomplished. When you spend 90% of your time correcting the horrible and disrupting behavior of 10% of the population, that isn't going to happen.

  24. I think for once this fight the RUSD will lose and lose big.
    Do what we have to do live within a budget cut back in lean time.
    Maybe even do your job with our kids and educate them (no not that!)

  25. Would any tax hike exist for Racine School District Taxpayers if the $50 Million dollar building SC Johnson built was taxable and school taxes were paid on the property rather than SC Johnson obtaining an underhanded tax exemption by working together in the shadows with the alleged child molesting former mayor.

    Shame on SC Johnson, they should be paying their fair share like everyone else in these difficult economic times. The most rich citizens of our community look for hand outs by not paying their fair share. Because of SC Johnson actions, the burden then gets passed onto those that can barely get by living pay check to pay check. When will the Johnson family finally have enough money that they can stop stealing from hard working taxpayers in Racine. Fisk and Helen Johnson - pay your fair share!

  26. kkdither - the facts are if you send your child to a private school, there is a 99% chance they will go on to a technical school or college. So as a parent - this is a no brainer of a decision. And don't whine about costs - there is money out there to be had for those who cannot afford it.

  27. Anon 11:27, you are correct, although I don't know that the figure is as high as you state, 99%?

    However, not everyone can afford to send their children to private schools. Most who do, invest in their children and provide the basic skills and support/guidance. The decline in Unified's enrollment is due to that, no doubt. That is part of the factor in the decrease in funding this budget session, less students.

    The trouble is, these children who go off to other schools are the well behaved, typically higher achieving kids. These are the ones who are a pleasure to teach. What do you suggest you do with those who don't fall into this category? Throw them aside?

    You may suggest school choice vouchers... That has been thrown around. When these "less than desirable" children wind up in the "better" schools, these schools will begin to have the same problems. Oh, wait, they can throw these kids back to what will be left.... the snake pit. Doesn't sound so good to me as a citizen of this city.

  28. kkdither - St. Catherine's percent is that high and Prairie and Lutheran are between 95% and 99%.

  29. Thanks for the numbers tip off anon 1:55. Does that really matter though?

    The bigger question still sits there. What about those who are less than able to handle the private schools, for whatever reason? (probably because they come from a hell hole life) Do you not care? Do you toss them aside to fend for themselves?

    Will you care when they can't read, write or function in life? They may just decide it is much easier to rob you or your house. How many are you willing to lock up and pay for then?

    Unified needs to get some ducks in a row. No question about it. Time and time again, they fail at what should be obvious.

    All I am saying is that we need to be careful what path we choose. $150. up front in taxes might be a cheaper option than some of the alternatives.

    Hating on the teachers or selectively removing the better students to a more elite school doesn't solve the problem. It just may make you feel temporarily better.

  30. "Will you care when they can't read, write or function in life? They may just decide it is much easier to rob you or your house. How many are you willing to lock up and pay for then?"

    IMHO that is what J-WAx wants a nonthinking work force that they can pay low wages to.
    Looks liker that is just what RUSD is doing for them

  31. kkdither - 1. there is money available at the private schools if people take the time to seek it out. 2. If more people would move their children to the private schools, that would drive their tuition costs down. 3. The public school system is broken and it does not matter how much money you throw at it they have proven it can't be fixed. 4. For the balance of the students, they can turn the current schools into jails and just through them in.

    Colt - the SC Johnson rant is old. It is nonsense to bad mouth any major employer in Racine. We have lost enough business and jobs. We need the likes of SC Johnson, CNH, Twin Disc, Insinkerator and all other medium to small business's in Racine. Give it up man. Those Johnson kids have no real ties to Racine - there are a lot of other cities I'm sure they'd like to live in - so give it up!

  32. Anon:
    "If more people would move their children to the private schools, that would drive their tuition costs down."

    No--- what would happen is that the entry criteria would need to be elevated or a lottery system initiated, currently utilized at the magnet schools. How many students do you think St. Cat's can physically educate?

    "For the balance of the students, they can turn the current schools into jails and just through them in."

    1. Shame on you! Many of these throw away students are the product of their parents. I, for one, don't give up on them just because maybe they have given up on themselves. Our state says we need to educate every child.

    2. "Through" should be throw. I was educated in RUSD and I know the difference. You can still get a fantastic education in RUSD... if you try.

    3. "The public school system is broken." Yes, it is. Come up with reasonable solutions. Do you really think you can eliminate it all together? The amount of money here is negligible in comparison to your plan. It is not throwing more money at the system. It is replacing money the state has decided not to fund. The district cut over 4 million off of last year's budget.

    Get your facts straight. You are not showing much reason for someone who has received such an elite education.

  33. kkdither - the only thing I agree with - through s/b throw. I'll let you worry about these other kids - there is no helping them. As long a people keep having kids like rabbits and kids keep having babies nothing will ever change.

  34. State & county employees ( union & non-union ) ars not getting raises, RUSD why should you ?? How about paying for cadilac health insurance ?? Retirees too !!