November 2008 Madison Schools’ Referendum Roundup

Dave Blaska:

The prevailing wisdom is that the referendum will pass. The prevailing wisdom is probably correct. There has been no organized effort to fight it, unlike three years ago. And the surge of Obama voters, the scent of victory in their flaring nostrils, will carry along the schools in that high tide that lifts all boats. The Wisconsin State Journal has yet to do any serious journalism on the issue. It’s been lost in the shuffle.
On the other hand, the stock market is in the toilet and with it, people’s retirement plans. Home values are falling. Layoffs are accelerating. Energy prices are moderating but still expensive. And in the near future: a recession of unknown duration. So, maybe it doesn’t pass.
The referendum was recommended 7-0 August 26 by the overly harmonious school board, including Lucy Mathiak, who once teamed with Ruth Robarts and Laurie Kobza. Those two, however, are no longer serving.
I give Ed Hughes credit for reaching out to this irascible blogger. The schools have not done enough of that in the past. I am thinking now of former TV-3 news anchor Beth Zurbuchen, who infamously dissed of opponents of the referendum three years ago for being “selfish.”
Two of the three spending referenda were defeated that year, in no small part to such arrogance. I made that point with Ed Hughes. For arrogance this year, we have Marge Passman of Progressive Dane. You can hear Mitch Henck sputtering with amazement on his WIBA radio program Outside the Box as Passman makes the most ridiculous comments.


One Madison voter with a ballot discrepancy said that she’s now questioning whether these mistakes are really mistakes, WISC-TV reported.
When Carole McGuire received her absentee ballot, she said something didn’t look right. “The ballot came, and I thought, ‘That’s odd,'” said McGuire.
She said that noticed that among all the races, the Madison Metropolitan School District referendum was nowhere to be found.
“Here is where the school district referendum would be, and it’s not there,” said McGuire, who then called the city clerk.
“I said, ‘This isn’t the correct ballot,'” said McGuire. “She said, ‘Oh well, tear it up and we’ll give you a new one.’ I said, ‘No, I don’t want to tear it up at the moment, I’ll come back.’

Paul Caron on declines in state income, sales tax and fee revenues:

States are beginning to report revenue collections for the July-September 2008 quarter, and the new figures raise the likelihood that large, additional budget shortfalls are developing. Of 15 mostly large and mid-sized states that have published complete data for this period, the majority collected less total tax revenue in July-September 2008 than was collected in the same period in 2007. … After adjustment for inflation, total revenue collections are below 2007 levels in 14 of the 15 states.

Greg Mankiw on proposed federal income tax changes:

Shelly Banjo compares McCain & Obama’s tax plans.
Much more on the November 4, 2008 Madison referendum here.

One thought on “November 2008 Madison Schools’ Referendum Roundup”

  1. One fact that nearly everyone is missing is that the Dec 2008 tax bill will drop (for a variety of reasons) from Dec 2007 bill, and the increases in the first two years of the referendum (Dec 2009 and 2010 tax bills) will still be lower or nearly equal to the Dec 2007 bill. In this situation, I can’t see this referendum as a tax concern.
    Another fact that nearly everyone seems to be missing is that the tax impacts that the district states are based on the district mil rates, without any consideration of state levy tax credits (which are based on amount of school property taxes paid – and comprise nearly a 15% reduction in the stated mil rate). MMSD seems to like the direct calculation and simpler formula. However, this means tax impacts will be less than stated by the district.
    Third thing that is missed by nearly everyone is that the broader economic benefits of a healthy school system are profound (while difficult to measure). Dave Blaska is definitely on the wrong side of the equation here – passing the referendum is a very positive measure for Madison in terms of promoting future sales and attracting new families to the district.
    Fourth thing that is missed by nearly everyone is that state and federal support for MMSD has been flat or decreasing, despite an increased need, so the burden is on the local property tax payer – and the district has managed to keep those tax impacts limited. The rate of increase in per pupil spending in MMSD has been less than the state average. So much so, that, if it were allowed to grow at the average rate since 1995-06, we’d have $9 million more this year.
    Effective budgeting and long range planning needs some room for discussion beyond major cuts. And, if the referendum does not succeed, there will be major cuts. I encourage everyone, advocates or not, to support the referendum. Then, on budget cycles, get involved and informed to help the district stay in tune with the community regarding effectiveness.
    The other thing to support is a statewide solution to educational funding and delivery (and I agree, it’s not just money!).
    Thanks for your comments and for your concern for the success of the school district.
    – Jerry
    (member of Community and Schools Together)
    (Vote YES for Schools!)

Comments are closed.