After acting to protect their travel budget and to keep their right to receive a $150-a-year car allowance and $3 for each time they go somewhere in the city on official business, Milwaukee School Board members early Friday approved a budget for this year that will raise the amount to be collected in property taxes for schools by 14.6%.
The approval came on a 6-3 vote at 1:46 a.m., seven minutes after the board voted down an otherwise-identical proposal that would have taken away the car allowance and tightened up travel spending.
The mini-drama over the board members’ travel budget came at the same meeting the board approved a much tighter set of rules for out-of-town trips for members, a reaction to Journal Sentinel stories about travel by board member Charlene Hardin, including a trip to a conference she reportedly did not actually attend.
The budget vote means Milwaukee Public Schools is returning to spending the maximum amount allowed by state law, a practice that had been followed in every recent year except for a year ago, when the tax levy increase was held to 9% although state law permitted an increase of more than 16%.
Because of provisions in the state school funding formula, holding down spending cost MPS more than $5 million in state aid this year, which was one of the arguments for returning to spending at the maximum level.