Recently Governor Doyle directed state agencies to �examine all operations to bring accountability and fiscal responsibility to government�. As a result, the state has reduced the use of cell phones and saved thousands of dollars. The Department of Administration characterized the use of cell phones before this change as �part of the carelessness� that marked state spending under prior administrations.
Dane County and the City of Madison have written procedures that limit the assignment of cell phones to specific categories of employees. For example, the city permits assignment of a cell phone �where it is required that an employee be reachable at all times, or where an employee must be regularly able to make business telephone calls while in the field�.
In contrast, the Madison Metropolitan School District does not have a policy or an administrative procedure to restrict the use of cell phones at MMSD expense. Don�t expect that to change anytime soon, even though the annual cost of employee cell phones has increased 60% since 2001 from $51,225 to $82,259, including the monthly fee for each cell phone.
The majority of the Board does not favor budget targets for the superintendent or controls on how the administration spends the budget. The expanding use of cell phones by MMSD employees is just another example of this bias against fiscal controls.
Click on these links to view video clips from Wednesday’s event:
Finally, here’s a 4MB MP3 audio file of the event.
School Tax Bill Increase Modest
Tuesday, October 26, 2004
By Lee Sensenbrenner The Capital Times
After a year of budget cutting and no referendums, Madison property taxpayers will see a modest increase in what they’ll pay for public schools next year.
For the owner of the house that perfectly follows the city’s statistical averages, rising in value this year from $189,500 to $205,400, the bill from the Madison Metropolitan School District will climb by $54. The total bill will be about $2,362, according to administrators’ figures.
For the few whose assessments did not increase, the school property tax will decline; the budget that the Madison School Board passed Monday cuts the tax rate from $12.18 to $11.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value, a 5.6 percent dip.
Overall, the portion of the $317 million budget supported by local property taxpayers rose by 3.16 percent this year, from about $196 million to $202 million. The year before, when voters approved a referendum, the same levy rose by almost 10 percent and school taxes for the average homeowner went up by $216.
Each fall, after counting official enrollment and making other adjustments, the Madison School Board formalizes the budget it set the previous spring. In this cycle, the board cut nearly $10 million worth of services that were squeezed out as cost increases pressed against the state’s cap on school spending.
Board member Ruth Robarts was the only dissenter in the votes to authorize the budget. She has criticized the administration for bringing up only parts of the budget for debate and scrutiny and she feels greater efficiencies could be found through fresh analysis and a more open process.
Other board members Monday praised the administration for a thorough and exhausting effort to come up with the best possible budget, given that nearly $10 million worth of services would be taken from schools.
“This is the budget of clarity,” board President Bill Keys said, adding that it underwent more scrutiny and was presented in more detail than ever before.
Leopold Elementary: On a unanimous vote, the School Board also moved closer Monday to building a new school on the city’s south side.
Their vote gives the administration permission to get architects’ designs for the school and to propose wording for the referendum that would fund its construction.
So far, the plan is to build a school on the campus that connects to Leopold Elementary. The old building would serve kindergarten through second grade and the new school would serve third through fifth grade, creating a campus with some 800 or more elementary school students.
The initial estimates put the cost for the project at roughly $11 million.
Leopold Elementary has been crowded for several years and many students who would be within its enrollment boundary are bused to schools on the west and far southwest side. Administrators say new subdivisions in the area are expected to further speed the influx of new students around Leopold.
“Not trying to build a school on that site would represent a break in faith with the Leopold parents,” board member Bill Clingan said. “This really is the only practical thing to do.”
Juan Jose Lopez, a board member who also spoke in favor of the school, brought up the two perennial concerns of trying to build a new elementary school. He said the district must find a way to convince those without children and those who live away from the south side to vote for it.
For the second group, there is, among other things, talk of districtwide boundary changes for elementary school enrollment.
School Board Oks Budget For 2004-05
Taxes On The Average Madison Home Will Increase $54.
Tuesday, October 26, 2004
Doug Erickson Wisconsin State Journal
The Madison School Board passed a final budget Monday that raises taxes by $54 on the typical city home.
The owner of an average-priced home in Madison, now valued at $205,400, will pay $2,362 in school taxes for 2004, according to the district.
In 2003, the average home was valued at $189,500, and the school tax bill on it was $2,308.
The board passed a preliminary budget in May. Adjustments are made every October after fall enrollment and state aid become clear.
Monday, the board approved total spending of $317.2 million for the 2004-05 school year. Comparisons to last year are tricky because the district is including more than $7 million worth of grant money in this year’s total, said Roger Price, assistant superintendent of business services. In the past, grant money was not part of this total, he said.
Price said last year’s budget of $305.1 million compares to $309.5 million this year, an increase of 1.4 percent.
Of the total budget, $202.4 million will come from the local property tax levy, an increase of $6.2 million, or 3.2 percent.
The district’s tax rate actually declined this year by 5.6 percent because the total value of property in the district rose due to factors such as inflation and new housing growth. However, most homeowners will pay more school taxes because the assessed value of their homes increased an average of 8.3 percent from last year to this year.
This year’s tax increase of $54 on the average home is one-fourth of last year’s $216 increase. That’s because the one-year spending referendum passed by voters in June 2003 has expired. Also, board members cut programs and raised fees this year to make up a $10 million difference between what the district wanted to spend and what state law would allow it to spend.
District enrollment this year is 24,710, down 178 students.
The vote on the budget was 6-1, with Ruth Robarts dissenting. “There are efficiencies that we must look at, and I have very little confidence that we’ve done that with this budget,” she said.
* The board voted unanimously to pursue building a second elementary school on the campus of Leopold Elementary, 2602 Post Road.
The South Side school has 678 students — the top end of its capacity. Many more students are expected in the next five years due to home construction in Fitchburg.
Monday’s decision allows the administration to work with architects on a preliminary design. However, the board has not yet authorized a referendum. That decision will come in a later vote. The board is strongly leaning toward putting the issue on the ballot in April.
The district’s Long Range Planning Committee recommended earlier in the evening that the board pursue the second school.
Because Leopold’s attendance area is a peninsula that borders other school districts on three sides, changing boundaries would be an impractical solution, said Superintendent Art Rainwater. The district would be forced to change the attendance areas of many schools, in some cases busing children past their neighborhood schools to get to schools on the Isthmus or the East Side that have space.
“The only way to look at it is that you wipe out all the current boundaries and start over,” he said.
The estimated cost of the new school is about $11 million.