Category Archives: Politics – Wisconsin

West Bend Referendum Fight is Not Over

The citizens of West Bend received a reprieve last night when the West Bend School Board decided to suspend the referendum effort. “Suspend” is the key word. At the meeting, School Board President Joel Ongert made it clear that he wants to put a referendum on the April or possibly next November ballot. It is worth noting that those elections also historically have much lower turnout. That makes it easier for the referendum to pass (if you’d like me to explain this, I will, but I think y’all get it).

Ongert also made a comment that he thought that the needs at the high schools warranted $60 million! In the current referendum proposal, they are asking for $31 million for the high schools. Ongert wants to spend so. much. more.

Over the next few months as the citizens of the West Bend School District and their School Board consider the prospect of a referendum, we should keep some hard numbers in mind.

$215 million. That is how much the taxpayers will be obligated to pay back if the referendum being considered is approved. The district already owes about $130 million due to the passage of previous referenda. If the referendum passes, it will bring that total to about $215 million in owed interest and principal.

$2,125. There are about 40,000 adults who live in the West Bend School District. If the $50 million referendum being considered passes, the share for each adult is $2,125. Each adult’s share of the total $215 million debt would be about $5,200.

$5.3 million. The taxpayers currently spend about $5.3 million per year on paying down debt. That is $5.3 million that is not spent on educating kids. It is being spent on paying off buildings. That number will increase substantially if the referendum being considered passes.

20. Under the proposal outlined by Baird for the School Board, it will take 20 years to pay off new referendum debt. On the payment schedule presented by Baird at the August 13th school board meeting, the taxpayers will paying only the interest payments for the first nine years. The taxpayers will not pay down a single dollar of the principal until the tenth year.

2.7%. Despite having the authority under Act 10 to control labor expenses, employees of the West Bend School District can still get a family health insurance plan for as little as $49 per month. That is 2.7% of the total cost of the plan. The taxpayers pay the remaining 97.3%.

307. Using the Kindergarten Trend Projection Model, which extrapolates kindergarten enrollment trends to forecast future enrollment, there will be 307 kids in Jackson Elementary in nine years. That compares to the 371 kids who were in the school last year and the 535 kids in the same building at the most recent peak in 2010. That is a 43% decline in student population in the Jackson Elementary building, but also includes the reconfiguration of grades that occurred in 2014.

5,289. Using the same projection model, the entire West Bend School District will have an enrollment of 5,289 kids in the 2027-2028 school year. That compares to the 6,634 kids in the last school year and 6,843 kids in the district in the most recent peak year of 2009. That is a 20% decline in enrollment over the next decade.

Different project models give slightly different numbers, but the declining enrollment matches the trend that the school district has seen in recent years. Due to generally lower birth rates, open enrollment, the Wisconsin Parental Choice Program, and demographic shifts, the West Bend School District is seeing the same declining enrollment as many other Wisconsin school districts.

21%. In the most recent open enrollment figures, 21% of the kids who open enrolled out of the West Bend School District left to attend a virtual school. While the West Bend School Board wants to invest in buildings, families are seeking out modern ways to get a quality education.

20. The world of education is not immune from the societal and technological transformations taking place around us. Educational delivery methods now include online and hybrid learning, collaboration with industries, augmented reality, and so much more. The West Bend School Board is asking to spend $85 million on a 20th century education model.

Zero. If the voters approve allowing the West Bend School Board to dump tens of millions of dollars into buildings, they can expect zero improvements in educational outcomes. It has been proven time and time again that once the basic safety and space needs for school buildings are met, spending more on buildings does not result in better education.

For recent evidence, look at the test scores and graduation rates in the West Bend School District since the other school building referendums were passed. According to DPI data, all of the results are flat or declining. The new Badger and renovated Silverbrook schools look fantastic, but they did not make any kids smarter. That is why the school board has wisely not even attempted to claim that it will improve education in the district.

There are a lot of things that the West Bend School Board could do to try to improve education for the children under their care. Dumping money into fancy buildings is not one of them.

West Bend School Board Suspends Referendum Effort

Huzzah, huzzah… the West Bend School Board came to its senses and decided against putting a referendum on the ballot in November. They haven’t abandoned the effort yet, but at least they are pumping the brakes for a bit. The Washington County Insider has video of the discussion and details from the meeting. Here are some highlights:

“We have until next Tuesday to tell the county clerk what our intentions are,” he said.  “Are we going to a referendum in November and potential questions and how do we want it to look.” Board member Chris Zwygart spoke first and set the tone for the rest of the meeting.  “I’m not sure we’re ready to move forward. The board has a number questions,” said Zwygart.

Board member Ken Schmidt said he had doubts. “I question need and want,” said Schmidt.  “Those are two questions I have. Some things I see as needs with safety and that is a big need but here again I really have some questions about right sizing. Those are the two biggies.”

Schmidt also expressed concern about the cost to taxpayers in the future. “There’s no guarantee with a phenomenal economy. I’m a realist and there are cycles. I’ve seen several in my lifetime but I have sincere reservations.”

[…]

A couple of leaders from the West Bend School Board spoke after the meeting.

After the meeting Zwygart said as a person, “We have unanswered questions and limited time between now and the time of the election (Nov. 6, 2018) that just does not set us up for success as it relates to transparency with the voters and so I’m pleased with the decision.”

In particular, hats off to board members Chris Zwygart and Ken Schmidt for being good stewards of the taxpayers’ interests. Board members Joel Ongert and Tiffany Larson still seem hell bent on dumping tens of millions of dollars on buildings. This isn’t over. The debate continues…

“I would have to vote no and send the administration back to the drawing board.”

The West Bend School Board will vote today to put an $85 million referendum on the ballot. Here’s an interesting letter to the editor that originally ran on the Washington County Insider:

August 20, 2018 – West Bend, WI – I believe it is important to include the interest cost on the referendum so people know for a fact, what they will be paying.

I was on the Citizens Facility Advisory Committee and am very disappointed in the entire process of the decision to go to referendum.

The entire process has once again been less than honest. While we are following a 25 year plan, in what world of business do we have a 25 year plan without the plan on how to pay for it.

If I were to vote today, I would have to vote no and send the administration back to the drawing board.

There are way too many issues to address before moving forward on a building plan.

Being on the CFAC committee I had a first hand look at the issues they say they are trying to correct.  I could see many of them stemmed from very poor planning and execution to begin with.

These are things that have to be addressed so we don’t spend $85 plus million today and end up with the same issue in the future.

Dan Krier

West Bend

 

Efficient Government

Liberals always complain about stagnation in the legislative process and the inability of legislatures to get things done… except when Republicans are in the majorities.

The length of time bills were deliberated dropped significantly soon after Gov. Scott Walker and Republican legislators took control in 2011, diminishing the public’s opportunities to influence lawmaking, records and interviews show.

A Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism analysis of all bills enacted into state law over the past two decades shows an overall decline in deliberation time — with the most dramatic drop happening just after Walker took office.

In Walker’s first two years in office, average deliberation time was 119 days, compared to a 20-year average of 164 days. During that 2011-12 session, one out of every four bills, including some of the Republicans’ most sweeping and controversial legislation, was passed within two months of introduction.

West Bend School Board Calls Special Meeting to Put Referendum on Ballot

As usual with this board… public notice posted on the business day before the meeting. Apparently, they only anticipate 3 minutes of public participation.

NOTICE OF SPECIAL BOARD OF EDUCATION MEETING

Education Service Center

735 S. Main Street, West Bend

Board Room

August 20, 2018 6:00 pm

NOTICE TO THE PUBLIC AUDIENCE: A) At the regular and special meetings of the Board of Education, the President of the Board will honor requests of the public to speak to any item prior to the President’s closing of public participation. Persons requesting to be heard shall register their written requests to the Board President and identify themselves by name and address. Based on the number of requests, the President may set a time limit for all persons to speak. Persons wishing to speak a second time must register a second time. A person may speak a maximum of three (3) minutes; however, the President may limit the time, depending on the number of persons requesting to address the Board. B) Due to time constraints, Agenda items may be taken out of order. C) The time schedule is used as a guide. Times are approximate.

AGENDA

6:00      1. Call to Order 2. Pledge of Allegiance

6:01      3. Approval of Agenda

6:02      4. Public Participation 5. Action Items

6:05      a. Possible referendum election November 6, 2018

6:15      b. Potential referendum question(s) 6. Adjourn

Evers Threatens Education for Thousands of Choice Students

True.

Yesterday, State Superintendent Tony Evers won the Democratic Primary for governor. While Evers may come off much like a friendly grandfather—affable and harmless—it is important to recognize that he represents a threat to school choice in Wisconsin, even more so than previous Democrat gubernatorial candidates. Evers has a long record of opposing education reform that needs to be highlighted.

His stance on school choice may kick thousands of low-income Milwaukee students out of their schools

Evers has threatened to end Wisconsin’s school choice programs unless a number of untenable reforms are implemented. Without such changes, enrollment in the programs would be frozen. Voucher schools, particularly in Milwaukee, are reliant on a continual stream of students to remain viable. Freezing enrollment would effectively mean these schools would shut down and more than 27,000 low-income families in Milwaukee would be left with no option but to return to the low-performing Milwaukee Public Schools.

Judge Hagedorn Announces Run for Supreme Court

Great!

 

hagedorn

Baldwin’s tragic record of inaction

Now that we’re through the primary, here’s my full column from the Washington County Daily News.

At the writing of this column, we do not yet know who the Republicans will select to challenge incumbent U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin in November. What we do know is that Leah Vukmir and Kevin Nicholson would both be a tremendous improvement over Baldwin. Irrespective of which Republican moves forward to challenge Senator Baldwin, all Republicans must unite quickly if they are to unseat a sitting Democratic senator in what looks to be a strong year for Democrats.

In her lengthy career in politics, Sen. Baldwin has a curious record that is almost completely barren of accomplishment. Baldwin’s passion for inactivity has led to her only accomplishment of note — sitting idly by when she could have done something to stop the opioid abuses at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Tomah.

In the summer of 2014, Sen. Baldwin was quietly passed an inspection report by the VA inspector general from a friendly administration looking to give her a heads up. The report detailed a history and pattern of prescription drug abuses at the Tomah center that dated back to 2011 whereby powerful opioids and other drugs were handed out with impunity. Not only did the behavior endanger the lives of the veterans, but it was a conduit for opioids to be funneled onto the streets.

Sen. Baldwin ignored the report. She did not do anythingabout it. For months, the whistleblower and veteran Ryan Honl vigorously pushed Baldwin’s office to do something. He called and emailed her office asking her to take action on the VA inspector general’s report. Still Baldwin did nothing. The pleas from her constituent fell on deaf ears.

One must remember how little effort it would have taken Sen. Baldwin to do something on behalf of the veterans being drugged in Tomah. At the time, President BarackObama was in office and the secretary of VeteransAffairs is a member of the president’s cabinet.

A simple phone call or letter from a Democratic senator to a member of a Democratic administration would have carried a lot of weight. Still Baldwin did nothing.

It was not until January 2015 that Sen. Baldwin finally decided to act. Wisconsin news outlets began to run the story of a 35-year-old Marine Corps veteran who died of an overdose while an inpatient at the Tomah facility. Those news reports also shared details of the inspector general’s report — the same report that Baldwin had in her possession for months — regarding the incredible amount of opioids flowing out of Tomah.

Then, and only then, Sen. Baldwin acted. She called for an investigation. Baldwin knew of the abuses at the Tomah VA Medical Center for months. She was badgered by a constituent and veteran to do something. But neither her conscience, concern for veterans or pleas from constituents compelled her to act. The only thing that got Sen. Baldwin’s attention was a news story that was unfavorable to her. At least we now know what it takes to get Sen. Baldwin to do something on behalf of her constituents. It takes the media running a story involving her.

Wisconsin deserves better. Wisconsin deserves a senator who will dive into the thicket of Washington politics and fight like a Badger for the people of Wisconsin. Sen. Baldwin has had six years — four of which were during the presidency of President Barack Obama — to deliver results for her constituents. The only measurable result has been the tragic consequences of her dithering.

Evers to Challenge Walker

Wait… what? Way to come out of the gate strong, Tony.

best

Shulteis to be Washington County Sheriff

Congrats to Marty Shulteis!

County voters were blessed with two great men on the ballot for this office. It’s nice to have an election where you can’t go wrong.

Vukmir to Challenge Baldwin

Congratulations to Leah Vukmir on her primary victory!

And congratulations to Kevin Nicholson on his run. I hope that he sticks around to help Republicans win in November and then run for office again in the near future.

On to November!

Strong Turnout in Washington County

Way to go, Washington County!

turnout

76% of the voters in this county are Republicans. That tells us that the fears of apathy in the GOP base may be a little overstated.

Looking at Wisconsin

I always find it interesting when national media folks comment on Wisconsin. Like this:

To that end, Democrats hope the number of party voters who participate in Wisconsin primaries on Tuesday approaches the 1 million who voted in the primary in 2016, a presidential year, compared with 300,000 votes for the Democratic gubernatorial candidate in 2014.

Democrats would love to capture the Milwaukee suburban House district of Republican U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan, who is leaving office. Ryan supports former aide Bryan Steil to replace him, but Steil must fend off a primary challenge from avowed white supremacist Paul Nehlen.

Among Democrats, ironworker Randy Bryce was confronting Cathy Myers, a local school board member.

Notice how for the 1st District race, they throw in the “white supremacist Paul Nehlen” comment, even though he is one of 6 GOP candidates – 4 of which are credible and Nehlan is not one of them. But they don’t even mention that “ironworker Randy Bryce” is a deadbeat dad with a criminal record.  It’s almost as if the reporter got all of his information from a Democratic insider…

The benchmark for turnout is probably a good one though. Good to watch. I’ll be shocked if the Democrats get a million voters, but if they do, it would signal a strong Dem year.

School Board President Advocates Violating District Policy to Conceal Referendum Costs

During the West Bend School Board meeting last night, the Board President said:

Schmidt also wanted to know if the interest cost would be on the ballot and again voiced his concern about student enrollment projections.

Board President Joel Ongert said, “It will not be on the ballot.”

That would not only be dishonest to the taxpayers by concealing the true cost of the referendum, but it would be a direct violation of the School Board’s own policy 615. That policy states:

It shall be the policy of West Bend Joint School District No. 1 to provide disclosure to District residents and taxpayers regarding the total costs of any proposed referendum, whether it is a facilities referendum, operating referendum, or any other type. The genuine transparency regarding the planned use of public funds provides for a much more fully informed electorate, facilitates better communication with (and within) the community regarding referendum details, and builds trust among all District stakeholders.

Any proposed referendum presented to the District’s Board of Education for approval must disclose the following information and be available for review by the public upon request

1. The total principal dollar amount of the borrowing (typically done through the issuance of long-term bonds (debt)) over its entire term.

2. The total dollar amount of interest expense of the borrowing (i.e., typically a certain annual interest rate is applied to the long-term bonds to calculate the total interest expense over its entire term.

3. The total dollar amount of the referendum, including all principal (see item #1 above), interest (see item #2 above) and any other (e.g., brokerage, bond issuance) costs.

4. All major assumptions and factors used to arrive at item #3 above (i.e., the interest rate used in calculating total interest expense, term of bonds (i.e., time period of the debt), exact nature/type of the bonds, etc.).

If the referendum proposal/resolution is adopted by the Board, any additional communication (e.g., mailed materials to District residents, postings on the District website, communication to media, presentations at Board meetings and other meetings within the community) regarding the referendum must continue to disclose items #1 through #4 above.

I highlighted the relevant part of the policy.

The policy is laudable and has been on the books since 2012. Why is the School Board President seeking to violate their own policy and conceal relevant costs from the taxpayers? Will the other school board members follow his lead?

West Bend School Board Eyes $85 Million Referendum as Enrollment Declines

Yikes.

WEST BEND — A conservative estimate places interest cost for a $50 million referendum at about $35 million. The referendum funds would build a new Jackson Elementary and renovate parts of the West Bend high schools.

Baird director of public finance, Brian Brewer, estimated the cost using an interest rate of 4.75 percent. Market rates are between 3.5 and 3.75 percent. No action was taken by the board related to referendum information during the Monday meeting.

“I want to go into this conservative,” Brewer said. “I believe rates are poised to be higher than they are.”

That seems like a reasonable estimate. There are some other fascinating comments in the story. Like this one:

The Jackson fund was also discussed by the board and it was recommended by Bray Architects that it be used to pay down debt rather than reduce the referendum amount.

So rather than use the money that the district has been saving for years to pay cash for some of the building, Bray is recommending that we borrow it anyway. This is horrible fiscal management if the board takes their recommendation. It is always better to pay cash, if you have it, than to borrow the money and pay interest on it. Why would Bray recommend that the taxpayers pay interest on money they already have? because then Bray gets control over spending it.

Then there is this:

The amount of taxes paid for school debt will also reduce after debt from previous projects is paid of.

It is not clear if that is the reporter’s comment or if it is a summation of information given at the meeting. Most likely, it is the latter. It’s a nonsensical statement. The West Bend School District currently has about $130 million in outstanding debt. Our taxes are paying off this debt. If the taxpayers approve the referendum, that debt would balloon to about $205 million. That’s roughly $5,125 for every adult in the district.

The suggestion in that statement is that once we pay off some of the old debt, it won’t “cost” any more to pay the new debt. That’s BS. The debt is the debt and it must be paid. The fact that we pay off some old debt does not make the new debt any less. That would be like saying that buying a new car is free because you paid off the old car. That’s how the financially illiterate get themselves into trouble.

Baldwin’s tragic record of inaction

My column in the Washington County Daily News today looks ahead to the general election and how Senator Baldwin’s record of inaction has not been harmless. Here’s a taste:

Then, and only then, Sen. Baldwin acted. She called for an investigation. Baldwin knew of the abuses at the Tomah VA Medical Center for months. She was badgered by a constituent and veteran to do something. But neither her conscience, concern for veterans or pleas from constituents compelled her to act. The only thing that got Sen. Baldwin’s attention was a news story that was unfavorable to her. At least we now know what it takes to get Sen. Baldwin to do something on behalf of her constituents. It takes the media running a story involving her.

A Correction

In a quick piece about the GOP candidates for the 59th Assembly District, I said:

My concern with Ramthun is that he has also been on the Kewaskum School Board for the past several years and helped push though a massive school building referendum. The process leading up to that referendum used all of the shady techniques we’ve come to expect from some school boards and Ramthun was in the thick of it.

Upon speaking with Mr. Ramthun, I mischaracterized his involvement. He was off the school board from 2014 to 2016 when the committee work and biased survey took place. He was reelected to the board in the Spring of 2016. He did vote “yes” to put the referendum on the ballot in August of 2016. He says that he opposed the referendum and thought it would fail. He also voted against borrowing more money when the project costs exceeded the referendum amount.

Police Barred from Pride Parade

I guess there’s no pride in the police with these folks.

Local law enforcement groups will not be marching in next Sunday’s Pride Parade following pushback from members of Madison’s LGBT community who told the event’s organizer they felt unsafe with officers participating armed and in uniform.

OutReach LGBT Community Center board member Jill Nagler said members of the community, particularly people of color, have been voicing concerns about police involvement in the parade for more than a year. Those against official police involvement in the parade say police forces as a whole perpetuate homophobia and racism and make many in the community feel unsafe at Pride events.

This is a growing cultural trend on the Left where they are outright anti-police. For a movement that pride’s itself on inclusiveness, they are some of the most exclusive people in our society.

West Bend School Board Meets About Referendum Tonight

The West Bend School Board will be meeting tonight. Part of the agenda is to plan the referendum they plan to put on the ballot in November. If you’d like to attend, here are the details.

Education Service Center

735 S. Main Street, West Bend

August 13, 2018

6:30 pm

They are also taking a look at the preliminary budget for next year. That should be interesting.

Washington County Chair Responds to Sheriff

Now Don Kriefall, Washington County Board Chair, responds to Sheriff Schmidt’s column from the other day. This is an important discussion for the future of Washington County. Go read the whole thing on the Washington County Insider.

One of the initiatives discussed with Sheriff Schmidt was to offer to Washington County partners the ability to provide dispatch services for them at no cost. Funds saved by each municipality could then be earmarked to maintain or repair roads. As many municipalities had passed resolutions requesting a portion of the County sales tax, primarily due to the rising cost of roads, this would save those municipalities more than the amount of sales tax that they had requested.

Another initiative was to explore sharing a jail and circuit court with one or more county, Ozaukee and/or Waukesha. After the closing of the Lincoln Hills juvenile facility, one of the solutions offered by Governor Walker was to rehouse juvenile offenders in county jails contiguous to Milwaukee County. The initiative to share a jail/circuit court facility could provide several things;

  • The ability to create a court dedicated to prosecuting drug offenses,
  • The ability to share judges and allow caseloads to be more efficiently handled,
  • The ability to allocate District Attorneys to prosecute cases more efficiently.
  • The ability to repurpose each County Jail/Circuit Court and make them juvenile holding facilities and courts.

Another long term initiative would be to explore creating a metro sheriffs’ department. As this has been done effectively in other jurisdictions through the US (the Village of Richfield currently contracts with the Sheriffs’ office to provide police services) combining all police departments into a metro unit could provide the following;

  • The ability to eliminate the need for mutual aid pacts for major events,
  • All would fall under one umbrella for liability insurance and worker’s comp,
  • The ability to better allocate resources in a more timely fashion at major events,
  • No issues with who is in charge of any scene,
  • All local police officers would be hired by the Sheriff’s Department and assigned to their local communities.

As stated, these are some out-of-the-box solutions that could create efficiencies without negatively impacting services, and in most cases actually provide better services. I agree with Sheriff Schmidt that agencies that are too small struggle to meet the needs of the citizens they serve.

The population of Washington County is 135,000, 30,000 more than Green Bay, so I would challenge the assertion that it would be too big to be personal and responsive to the community.

Where I totally disagree is his perception that this is a political struggle. The constitutional authority delegated to a County Sheriff does not require a “fight” or an adversarial relationship with the County Board. It requires that we work together collaboratively to better serve the citizens of Washington County. We will continue to explore ways to provide the best possible services that positively impact the quality of life for the citizens of Washington County.