K-12 Tax, Referendum and Spending Climate: Freed from the office, Madison telecommuters are snapping up rural homes

Steven Elbow:

The coronavirus pandemic has a lot of people feeling boxed in. But for Michelle Possin it opened up a whole new realm of possibilities.

Before the COVID-19 crisis, the 54-year-old recruiter for TASC, a Madison-based administrative services company, spent half her time at home and the other half in the office. But now the company has nixed office work altogether, freeing employees to work from wherever they choose. So she sold her condo on the Isthmus and bought a house on Lake Wisconsin, giving her room for an office, a yard and, when the time comes, a place to retire.

“Living and working from a condo was not sustainable,” she said. “It was extremely small, and I felt very claustrophobic being there all the time.”

It was a life-changing decision to flee the city for more rural environs where Possin can spread out with twice the square footage of her condo, enjoy the lake and entertain at safe social distances outdoors, the kind of lifestyle that many crave, and more are finding within reach.

“There are quite a few people in my company who are moving because now they can work from anywhere,” she said. “One of my colleagues just moved to Colorado.”

Real estate agents across the country are noticing the trend. Untethered from the office and emboldened by historically low interest rates, telecommuters from the Bay Area to the East Coast are starting to look to the countryside, where they can have larger homes, bigger yards and a quieter life to raise their families.

Let’s compare: Middleton and Madison Property taxes:

Madison property taxes are 22% more than Middleton’s for a comparable home, based on this comparison of 2017 sales.

Fall 2020 Administration Referendum slides.

(Note: “Madison spends just 1% of its budget on maintenance while Milwaukee, with far more students, spends 2%” – Madison’s CFO at a fall 2019 referendum presentation.)

MMSD Budget Facts: from 2014-15 to 2020-21 [July, 2020]

Property taxes up 37% from 2012 – 2021.

MMSD Budget Facts: from 2014-15 to 2020-21
1. 4K-12 enrollment: -1.6% (decrease) from 2014-15 to projected 2020-21
2. Total district staffing FTE: -2.9% (decrease) from 2014-15 to proposed 2020-21
3. Total expenditures (excluding construction fund): +15.9% +17.0% (increase) from 2014-15 to proposed 2020-21
4. Total expenditures per pupil: +17.8% +19.0%(increase) from 2014-15 to proposed 2020-21
5. CPI change: +10.0% (increase) from January 2014 to January 202
6. Bond rating (Moody’s): two downgrades (from Aaa to Aa2) from 2014 to 2020
1. DPI WISEdash for 2014-15 enrollment; district budget book for projected 2020-21 enrollment
2. & 3.: District budget books
5. Bureau of Labor Statistics (https://www.bls.gov/data/)

– via a kind reader (July 9, 2020 update).

2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

My Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our Disastrous Reading Results

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration