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November 5, 2006

Poor Management Compels "No" Vote

After being decisively defeated in two spending referendums last year, the administration and a majority of the Madison School Board haven't learned that the voters are sick and tired of runaway spending and poor management.

In a demonstration of true arrogance, after being told in May 2005 that flat enrollment did not justify a new school in the Leopold School area of Arbor Hills, in June this year, the administration began construction of a major addition to Leopold School.

In so doing they put forth no plan to pay for the addition while gambiling on voters reversing themselves in a new referendum.

Madison spends significantly more per student than other Wisconsin districts. Over the past 10 years, while student enrollment has declined, full-time equivalent staff has increased by more than 600. At the same time, operating budgets have increased 58 percent, the cost per pupil is up 59, and there are 325 more non-teaching staff and administrators.

Clearly, the administration does not seem to be able to prudently manage district finances.

The voters said no to the $17 million request for a new school in 2005, and now the administration and majority of the board want authority to spend $23.56 million for a new school.

It has been repeatedly suggested that any proposal to add a new school should dicate closing an old school. The good economics of coupling such a move would only be fundamental good management, but this suggestion has been totally ignored by the board's majority and the administration. This is not good management.

In May 2005, the voters also overwhelmingly said no to raising the revenue cap for operations. By including all three new borrowing requests in one referendum question, the board and administration gambles on sweeping in refinancing authority by further permanently raising the revenue cap.

This refinancing ploy is a backdoor move that would raise our taxes to free up more than $800,000 a year for the district to spend. But we are not being told how the money will be spent.

Likely we will get more of the same -- more non-classroom and administration personnel, but no improvement in budgeting or expense control.

In the past six years, voters have twice approved referendums to provide funds for deferred maintenance, which the administration repeatedly failed to budget. However, there continues to be substantial deferred maintenance, and voters have not been told how the additional maintenance funds authorized in the past have been spent.

We need to reject the poor budgeting and management and the school board majority's unwillingness or inability to be honest with the voters. It is time to send a message by voting no on Tuesday, and, next spring, by electing board members who are capable and honest managers, good at budgeting, and who will listen to the taxpayers.

We want good schools, but we must insist on good management, and expenditures that benefit our students.

Posted by Thomas G. Ragatz at November 5, 2006 10:30 AM
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