Tax Base, City Growth and the School District’s Budget

Paying my annual property tax bill recently, I wondered what the effect of Madison’s development growth (some might call it sprawl) has had on overall spending growth and on an individual’s tax burden (note, Madison Schools include Fitchburg, Maple Bluff and Shorewood parcels). I contacted the city assessor’s office and asked how the number of parcels has changed since 1990. Here are the numbers (thanks to Hayley Hart and JoAnn Terasa):

2005: 64976 2004: 62249 2003: 60667 2002: 59090
2001: 58140 2000: 57028 1999: 56006 1998: 54264
1997: 53680 1996: 53152 1995: 52524 1994: 51271
1993: 50938 1992: 49804 1991: 49462 1990: 49069

Some believe that more money will solve the School District’s challenges.

Local taxpayers have long supported the Madison School District’s above average spending per student. In light of our growing state tax burden (up 10% this year), and the political pressure to moderate tax growth or implement a tax “freeze” (Republican candidate for Governor Scott Walker advocates 2/3 state funding for schools and a property tax freeze [pdf]. Given the profile and sensitivity of this issue along with Doyle’s desire to be re-elected, I wonder what promises will be made prior to November’s election date?), I don’t believe we’ll see significant growth in state funding.

Former Madison Mayor Paul Soglin, now working for Verona’s fast growing (fast!) Epic Systems takes a different look at Madison’s development challenges (self inflicted, in his view) and the implications for the City’s schools and tax base. Well worth reading.

What does this mean for public education funds? Like most public and private organizations, districts will need to do more with what they have and plan for more of the same, essentially the current moderate budget growth.

Further Background:

Finally, I’ve always wondered how the city’s appetite for a growing tax base squares with the long term costs (new schools, staffing, transportation) of supporting the resulting parcel growth (or is it sprawl)?