School Task Force Presentation Tonight!

Come to Jackson. Join the discussion. 

Jackson, WI – Common Sense Citizens of Washington County has organized a presentation by the West Bend School District Private Task Forceto be held at the Jackson Community Center on Thursday, December 5.

After the failed spring referendum a group of community leaders organized to research the School District’s needs and wants during a time of declining enrollment.

They will present those findings beginning at 6:30 p.m. on December 5 followed by questions from the audience.

This will be a polite and informative evening designed to generate a conversation about the future of the District and facility needs.

The Jackson Community Center is located at N165 W20330 Hickory Lane, Jackson.

Click HERE to review findings of West Bend School District Private Task Force.

Pelosi’s Hate

Nothing says “heart full of love” like calling someone a “coward” and “cruel.”

(CNN)House Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued a scathing warning Thursday to a reporter who asked her a question about her feelings about President Donald Trump: “Don’t mess with me.”

The California Democrat forcefully pushed back on the idea that she and her caucus are proceeding with articles of impeachment because of a personal dislike of Trump, after being asked by a reporter from Sinclair if she hates him on her way out of the weekly press conference.
Pelosi stopped and said: “I don’t hate anybody.”
She then walked back to the microphone, and said that while she believes Trump is a “coward,” that’s only about his political positions.
“I think this President is a coward when it comes to helping our kids who are afraid of gun violence,” she said. “I think that he is cruel when he doesn’t deal with helping our Dreamers, of which we are very proud of. I think he is in denial about the climate crisis. However, that’s about the election.”
She continued: “This is about the Constitution of the United States and the facts that lead to the President’s violation of his oath of office. And as a Catholic, I resent your using the word ‘hate’ in a sentence that addresses me. I don’t hate anyone.”
“I pray for the President all the time,” Pelosi said. “So don’t mess with me when it comes to words like that.”
Uh huh… sure you do…

Two West Bend Teens Cited for Threat

From the Washington County Insider.

December 4, 2019 – West Bend, WI – On Tuesday, December 3, 2019 at approximately 6 p.m. a student at a West Bend High School reported he received a message on social media of a picture of a compass. On the compass were the names of five cities including; Waukesha, Oshkosh, Sheboygan, Brookfield, and West Bend. West Bend Police began an investigation and notified the City of Brookfield and Sheboygan Police Departments.

On Wednesday, December 4, 2019 West Bend officers identified a 15-year-old West Bend student that created the picture and sent it to friends. We also identified a 17-year-old West Bend student that distributed the picture to numerous other students. The 15-year-old stated he wrote the names of the cities with the intention of suggesting that Brookfield, Sheboygan, and West Bend would be the next victims of a shooting at schools in their cities. West Bend Police took the 15-year-old and 17-year-old into custody. The 15-year-old was referred to Washington County juvenile authorities for Disorderly Conduct. The 17-year-old was cited for Disorderly Conduct.

The information regarding the two actors was forwarded to Waukesha, Oshkosh, City of Brookfield, and Sheboygan Police Departments. The City of Brookfield Police Department is also referring charges of Disorderly Conduct to the Waukesha County juvenile authorities and Waukesha County District Attorney’s Office.

This seems too light a punishment – particularly for the 17-year-old. Making threats like that are no joke, but kids will continue to act like they are if law enforcement treats them like they are.

Task Force Presentation in Jackson Tomorrow

If you’re in the West Bend School District, come check this out!

Jackson, WI – Common Sense Citizens of Washington County has organized a presentation by the West Bend School District Private Task Force to be held at the Jackson Community Center on Thursday, December 5.

After the failed spring referendum a group of community leaders organized to research the School District’s needs and wants during a time of declining enrollment.

They will present those findings beginning at 6:30 p.m. on December 5 followed by questions from the audience.

This will be a polite and informative evening designed to generate a conversation about the future of the District and facility needs.

The Jackson Community Center is located at N165 W20330 Hickory Lane, Jackson.

Click HERE to review findings of West Bend School District Private Task Force.

Gifts in the mail

Here is my full column that ran in the Washington County Daily News yesterday.

It is that time of year again! You can feel the excitement slicing through the air like hard sleet. People all over Wisconsin are going to their mailboxes and finding their property tax bills awaiting them. Despite years of politicians promising to control property taxes, Wisconsin still has the fourth highest property tax burden in the nation.

As I wrote in a column a few weeks ago, when it comes to property taxes, the levy is everything, and spending determines the levy. When a government uses the property tax, they begin by determining how much total money they plan to spend. Then they determine how much of that spending will be funded by the property tax. That number is the levy. Then the levy is divided into the aggregate property value and the mill (tax) rate is determined. When you hear politicians bragging about the mill rate, be wary. It is one way that they camouflage more spending and higher taxes.

To illustrate this, let us walk through my property tax bill and the five governments that are forcing me to send them money by threatening to take away my home if I refuse. My example is anecdotal, of course, but I encourage all of you scrutinize your property tax bills when they arrive. The assessed value of my home remained unchanged between 2018 and 2019, so the tax changes shown are not reflective of a change in home value.

First, Moraine Park Technical College is the second smallest component of my property tax bill and it increased 2.7%. Why? Looking into MPTC’s 2019-2020 budget, which, incidentally, is a beautifully clear and detailed budget document for a government institution, they increased spending by $191,000, but due to a slight decrease in revenue from other sources, they are increasing the property tax levy by $323,000. An increase in spending and the tax levy resulted in higher taxes.

Second, the property tax for Washington County increased 1.4%. This is curious given that county officials made a big pronouncement about enacting a property tax rate decrease. Again, be wary when government officials brag about a tax rate. Looking into Washington County’s 2020 budget, the county increased the property tax levy by $683,000 to help support an overall general fund spending increase of $1.7 million. That is a 4.27% spending increase. Once again, more spending results in higher taxes.

Third, the West Bend School District’s property tax increased a whopping 7.4% on my property tax bill. Once again, district officials were bragging that they kept the tax rate flat. But again, more spending and a higher property tax levy actually leads to higher taxes irrespective of the rate. Looking at the West Bend School District’s 2020 budget, the school board approved a $2.7 million spending increase of which $1.6 million is being paid for with a larger property tax levy. It is worth noting that the school board implemented this spending and taxing increase while the number of kids that the school district is educating is decreasing.

Fourth, the city of West Bend’s portion of my property tax bill increased by 1.4%. Readers of this column will remember that the Common Council voted to increase property taxes even though they did not need to in order to support their increased spending. But they chose to increase the property tax levy by $371,000 to help support a $1.3 million increase in city spending.

Fifth, and finally, the property tax for the state of Wisconsin remained flat at zero. Spending and taxes are up at the state level too, but at least in terms of the property tax, former Governor Scott Walker and the Republican Legislature held true to their word and ended the state property tax.

In total, my property taxes increased 3.4% since last year to pay for an aggregate spending increase of $5.9 million by governments.

For those who wonder why Wisconsin’s property taxes are so high, one need only look at the budgets of the governments that feed off of the property tax. Bloated spending that gets more bloated every year results in higher taxes. The reason for high taxes is simple: it’s the spending.

UW Regents Exclude Faculty from Presidential Search Committee

I think I’m with the Regents on this one.

Faculty at all 13 University of Wisconsin System campuses have called on the UW Board of Regents to expand its presidential search committee and include representation from the faculty, staff and students whom the next president will oversee.

But Board of Regents president Drew Petersen said in a Monday statement that he will not expand the committee.

Faculty, graduate assistants and staff make up 96% of the System’s 40,000-member workforce, but none of them have a seat on the search committee tasked with selecting System President Ray Cross’ successor. In past searches, faculty and staff played a role in identifying the next leader.

“The people with the boots on the ground are not represented,” UW-Madison food science professor Mark Etzel told his colleagues at a Faculty Senate meeting Monday. “I find it to be a preposterous proposal. It’s just a shame what faculty governance has become at the University of Wisconsin.”

Think of this from a private sector perspective… do employees participate in the search and vetting of new executives? Nope. Should they? Maybe, but it’s certainly not required. Sometimes the executives that the employees like are the worst ones. Sometimes you need executives to be a change agent and employees are naturally resistant to change. Depending on what the Regents are looking for, it might be best to not let the employees have a say.

West Bend School Board Reconsiders Process to Combine High Schools

Hmmm… from the Washington County Insider.

In October 2019, Superintendent Don Kirkegaard said, “unless there is a change in enrollment trends, the district can expect declining enrollment for the next 8-10 years.”
Click HERE to see predicted enrollment trends, including numbers from the high schools which show a drop in enrollment from 2019 at 2,184 to 1,669 in 2028.

Board member Joel Ongert brought up Policy 188: Should the Board decide to further consider reconfiguration of the high schools, the Board must proceed to a non-binding referendum at the next Gubernatorial or Presidential election balloting. The next Presidential election is Nov. 3, 2020.

Policy 188 was put into place in 2015; it was the last time the district broached the subject of combining the two high schools.

Joel Ongert – “The way this policy reads and all the steps, this could take potentially years…  So I think it’s time we look at this policy. I’m not saying we totally eliminate it, I’m not saying that we … maybe not necessarily start from scratch. I think it’s time we start looking at this policy, just in case in the future the declining enrollment numbers … It would be easier for us to close an elementary school than it would be to combine the two high schools.”

For a little background… West Bend has two high schools in one building. This was done decades ago for the purpose of having all of the benefits of two high schools (primarily, double the extracurricular opportunities) while saving money with a single campus. As currently configured, virtually all of the academic departments operate as a single school. The only things that are separate are the extracurricular and sports teams and we are paying for two administrations.

About every five years – when we have a new batch of parents with kids in the high schools – the community debates whether the district should just have one high school. It is always an emotional and raucous discussion. Personally, I’m a supporter of combining the schools. It is more efficient and the benefits of the current configuration do not outweigh the detriments. But there are generations of Benders who are emotionally invested in being a Sun or a Spartan and don’t want to see them combined. While I disagree with these folks, their perspective is certainly valid and they deserve a voice.

After the last round of debate, the School Board put the referenced policy in place. The purpose was to provide a pre-determined process by which the question of combining the high schools would be considered in a way that provides transparency and community participation. Based on the conversation had by school board members last night, the rapidly declining enrollment if the district is generating a fresh look at the question, but board members may want to revise the process to allow them more latitude in making the decision.

Should they? Maybe. Any policy can be revised by a board. It will depend on what they do. If they want to revise the policy to allow a referendum question to be put on more possible dates, then that’s probably fine. If they want to eliminate the public voice altogether, then it’s not fine.

In any case, I am disappointed that the school board would inject this emotionally-charged discussion into what was already a vigorous debate about the physical infrastructure of the district and the impact of declining enrollment. It could be a poison pill in a comprehensive plan.

Gifts in the mail

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. In it, I take a quiet stroll through my property tax bill and look for the source of the tax increases. In every case, the government taxing me is increasing spending. Coincidence? I think not. Here’s a taste:

It is that time of year again! You can feel the excitement slicing through the air like hard sleet. People all over Wisconsin are going to their mailboxes and finding their property tax bills awaiting them. Despite years of politicians promising to control property taxes, Wisconsin still has the fourth highest property tax burden in the nation.

As I wrote in a column a few weeks ago, when it comes to property taxes, the levy is everything, and spending determines the levy. When a government uses the property tax, they begin by determining how much total money they plan to spend. Then they determine how much of that spending will be funded by the property tax. That number is the levy. Then the levy is divided into the aggregate property value and the mill (tax) rate is determined. When you hear politicians bragging about the mill rate, be wary. It is one way that they camouflage more spending and higher taxes.

To illustrate this, let us walk through my property tax bill and the five governments that are forcing me to send them money by threatening to take away my home if I refuse. My example is anecdotal, of course, but I encourage all of you scrutinize your property tax bills when they arrive. The assessed value of my home remained unchanged between 2018 and 2019, so the tax changes shown are not reflective of a change in home value.

[…]

In total, my property taxes increased 3.4% since last year to pay for an aggregate spending increase of $5.9 million by governments.

For those who wonder why Wisconsin’s property taxes are so high, one need only look at the budgets of the governments that feed off of the property tax. Bloated spending that gets more bloated every year results in higher taxes. The reason for high taxes is simple: it’s the spending.

Chicago Mayor Fires Police Superintendent Weeks Before Retirement

The mayor acted too hastily here:

Sources told the Chicago Tribune that the city inspector general’s office, which has been investigating the October incident, obtained video footage showing Johnson drinking for a few hours on the evening of Oct. 16 with a woman who was not his wife at the Ceres Cafe, a popular restaurant and bar at the Chicago Board of Trade building.

Later that night, when officers responded to a 911 call near Johnson’s home in the Bridgeport neighborhood about 12:30 a.m. Oct. 7, Johnson rolled down the window on his police vehicle partway, flashed his superintendent’s badge and drove off, sources said.

A Ceres employee who identified himself as a general manager declined to comment Monday.

On Monday, Lightfoot told reporters she had reviewed the inspector general’s report into the incident as well as videotaped evidence that left her with no choice but to fire Johnson.

“I saw things that were inconsistent with what Mr. Johnson had told me personally and what he revealed to members of the public,” she said.

With the inspector general’s report still not public, Lightfoot declined to be more specific about what the videotaped evidence showed but hinted that it would be hurtful to Johnson’s family.

“While at some point the IG’s report may become public and those details may be revealed, I don’t feel like it’s appropriate or fair to Mr. Johnson’s wife or children to do so at this time,” she said.

Sources said Lightfoot moved to fire Johnson before the superintendent had even been interviewed by the inspector general’s office as part of its investigation.

The mayor said she personally delivered the news Monday morning to Johnson, the fourth of the last six superintendents to be fired or resign amid scandal. She gave three reasons for dumping him:

— That he “engaged in conduct that is not only unbecoming but demonstrated a series of ethical lapses and flawed decision-making” in the October incident.

— That the superintendent called a news conference later the day of the incident in which he communicated “a narrative replete with false statements, all seemingly intended to hide the true nature of his conduct from the evening before.”

— That Johnson intentionally lied to the mayor several times, “even when I challenged him about the narrative that he shared with me.”

The facts that Lightfoot shared, if true, are certainly unbecoming of the superintendent and may justify his firing, but the investigation is not complete. Also, the full details of the investigation have not been made public, so the mayor’s claim that she wants to protect his family rings hollow.

I suspect that this is the real reason for Lightfoot’s hasty decision:

Johnson had been plucked from relative obscurity as chief of patrol in April 2016 when then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel bypassed three finalists chosen by the Chicago Police Board and appointed him superintendent.

Johnson was clearly Emanuel’s “guy” and Lightfoot wanted to send a clear message that she’s the new sheriff in town. In doing so, she may have alienated a good chunk of the police force and exacerbated the friction between the police force and the public.

Private Task Force to Present Findings in Jackson

From the Washington County Insider.

Jackson, WI – Common Sense Citizens of Washington County has organized a presentation by the West Bend School District Private Task Force to be held at the Jackson Community Center on Thursday, December 5.

After the failed spring referendum a group of community leaders organized to research the School District’s needs and wants during a time of declining enrollment.

They will present those findings beginning at 6:30 p.m. on December 5 followed by questions from the audience.

This will be a polite and informative evening designed to generate a conversation about the future of the District and facility needs.

The Jackson Community Center is located at N165 W20330 Hickory Lane, Jackson.

Click HERE to review findings of West Bend School District Private Task Force.

Wisconsin Is Adding Higher-Paying Jobs

Excellent news from the Wisconsin Policy Forum.

Generally speaking, jobs have grown more in Wisconsin in higher-paying occupations than in lower-paying ones since 2008. In fact, employment in the 11 highest-paying occupational groups—which each pay median wages of at least $42,000 annually—has grown by a combined 114,870 statewide during that time. Meanwhile, employment in the 11 lowest-paying occupational groups paying median wages of less than $42,000 has declined by a combined 42,990.

Four of the five occupational groups that have added the most jobs pay median annual wages of at least $60,000 per year: business and financial operations, computer and mathematical, healthcare practitioners and technical, and management. (See Figure 1 and our interactive charts.) These occupations also typically require higher levels of education and training than many of the occupations in decline.

One notable exception to this trend was personal care and service occupations, which have shown the most growth overall and which pay relatively low wages. Personal care and service occupations include personal care aides, barbers/hairstylists, and child care workers. Employment in that group grew by both the largest number (42,240) and percentage (56.2%) statewide during the 10-year period. At $23,870, personal care and service occupations paid the second-lowest median wage of the 22 groups in 2018 behind only food preparation and serving jobs.

Man with Gun Stops Threat

I feel bad for the resource officer who had to shoot a kid.

WAUKESHA, Wis. – A school resource officer inside Waukesha South High School in  Wisconsin shot a 17-year-old student who pulled a gun in a classroom and refused to drop it, according to officials.

The suspect is in custody and the building is safe and secure, according to the Waukesha Police Department.

The student with the gun was the only person injured in the incident.

The student brought the gun to school, school officials tell the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Waukesha Police Chief Russell Jack said the officer who fired his gun is an 11-year veteran of the department.

West Bend School Board to Discuss Facilities

This could be interesting. From the Washington County Insider.

December 1, 2019 – On Monday, Dec. 2, 2019 the West Bend School District Committee of the Whole will meet at 5:30 p.m. to discuss facilities planning.
A couple bullet points are listed below including student transportation and looking at the configuration of the high schools.
[…]

Topic and Background: Administration wishes to resume the discussion surrounding our District’s current and future facilities needs as a continuation of this recent standing agenda item.

This coming Monday evening, Mr. Ross will finish sharing information on our secondary schools and auxiliary buildings. Further, he will be bringing forward summary information on our operational costs.

Additional topics will include:

  • Property values by municipality

  • Property value south of County Road NN (and) property value of the Jackson Elementary attendance area

  • Discussion of building with debt issuance versus lease-to-own through operational dollars

  • An update on student transportation and how this service is structured

  • An identification of our Board policy 188 discussing the configuration of the high school(s) and a change from the existing design

Terrorist Released Due to “Budget Cuts”

Budget cuts, eh?

Two people were killed and three were injured by Usman Khan, 28, a convicted terrorist who served half of his time.

PM Boris Johnson claimed scrapping early release would have stopped him.

But Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn will blame budget cuts for “missed chances to intervene” in a speech on Sunday.

As many as 70 convicted terrorists released from prison could be the focus of the government review.

Khan, 28, who was shot by police on Friday after carrying out the attack, was jailed over a plot to bomb the London Stock Exchange in 2012.

He was sentenced to indeterminate detention for “public protection” with a minimum jail term of eight years.

This sentence would have allowed him to be kept in prison beyond the minimum term.

But in 2013, the Court of Appeal quashed the sentence, replacing it with a 16-year-fixed term of which Khan should serve half in prison. He was released on licence in December 2018 – subject to an “extensive list of licence conditions”, Met Police Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu said.

Harford Awards No Bid Contract for Airport Ordinance Work

For those of you in Hartford who are receiving your property tax bills in the next few days… take note.

“The state will pay 80 percent of the cost. The contract is for $53,952,” Drew said. “The city would be responsible for $10,790 of the cost.”

Some council members asked if the city was required to bid the project out.

Drew said the city was not required to and Mead and Hunt has been involved in the Hartford airport for decades. He said it made sense to use them again because of their familiarity with the past projects, including the one completed this year.

“I don’t believe this cost is extraordinary,” said City Administrator Steve Volkert. Volkert and Drew also suggested Mead and Hunt’s cost might even be lower than some other companies because of their familiarity with the Hartford airport.

“In fact we talked them down (in their price) by about $15,000,” Drew said.

It “might” be lower than other companies. It also might be higher. Or the same. We will never know. And even though the city taxpayers are only on the hook for 20% of the cost, the rest of the state’s taxpayers are picking up 80%. It would have been nice if they would have gone through the simple process of getting multiple bids.

Leonardo DiCaprio Burns the Amazon

Uh huh

Without offering proof, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Friday said actor Leonardo DiCaprio had funded nonprofit groups that he claimed are partly responsible for fires in the Amazon this year.

Bolsonaro’s remarks about the American actor were part of a wider government campaign against environmental nonprofit groups operating in Brazil.

“DiCaprio is a cool guy, isn’t he? Giving money to set the Amazon on fire,” the president said to supporters in Brasilia.

DiCaprio’s environmental organization Earth Alliance has pledged $5 million to help protect the Amazon after a surge in fires destroyed large parts of the rainforest in July and August. But the actor and committed environmentalist said in a statement sent to The Associated Press Friday his group had not funded any of the two nonprofits named by investigators so far.

“While worthy of support, we did not fund the organizations targeted,” the statement read. “The future of these irreplaceable ecosystems is at stake and I am proud to stand with the groups protecting them.”

Some members of Bolsonaro’s administration argue that civil society groups and environmental laws hinder economic development in the region.

Property Tax Bills Are On the Way

Yippee.

The tax bill is the aggregate amount levied by several taxing bodies, such as county, municipality (Township, Village, City), school district, technical college, etc.

Two numbers to watch are your Net Property Tax (what you will pay out of pocket) and Total Estimated Fair Market Value (the amount that the mill rate is applied to.)

More analysis of the net tax impact of adjustments to Total Estimated Fair Market Value will be discussed after all municipality tax bills have been uploaded.

While much has been made of flat or declining mill rates (amount levied per $1,000 of property value), in some cases taxpayers may experience a net increase, because Total Assessed Value has been divided by an Average Assessment Ratio that reflects real estate sale price increases in your municipality in the year 2018.

Click HERE to get to the statement or follow the steps below. If you click on the link, the County Treasurer’s office said “less is more” with the amount of information you tap in. Simply type in your last name and your statement should come up.

Cheating Man Busted by Food Critic

Ouch.

A scorned wife claims she caught her husband cheating after a restaurant critic inadvertently photographed him dining with his mistress for a recent review.

The anonymous woman made the claim during a weekly question and answer with Tom Sietsema, food critic for the Washington Post.

Around halfway through the session, a post appeared which read: ‘Well Tom your latest review is accompanied by a picture of my husband dining with a woman who isn’t me!

‘Once confronted with photographic evidence, he confessed to having an ongoing affair. Just thought you’d be amused to hear of your part in the drama.

Michigan Makes Bid for F-35s if Wisconsin Doesn’t Want Them

Good for them. The military should put their resources in communities that welcome them.

A bipartisan majority of Michigan’s congressional delegation members have signed a letter to Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett, urging her to select Selfridge Air National Guard Base as one of the locations to host the Air National Guard’s next F-35A operational bases after the completion of the Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

In December 2017, the Harrison Township base lost a bid to be one of two preferred alternative locations for the F-35s.

Bases in Alabama and Wisconsin were selected instead of Selfridge, which was among five National Guard bases across the country competing to be one of the two homes to the new fighter aircraft. The aircraft are to go to the new bases beginning in 2023.

But there has been concern in Madison, Wisconsin, from officials and residents about the F-35s going to Truax Field Air National Guard Base, which is about 6 miles northeast of the city.

“We understand that last month, the City of Madison submitted a letter with 22 pages of public comments, tasking the Air Force with 25 questions to be resolved in the Final EIS, and requesting that if those questions are not satisfactorily answered, you, as Secretary of the Air Force, reconsider listing Truax Field as a preferred location,” according to the Michigan delegation’s letter dated Monday. “In addition to numerous complaints about the F-35 mission from individual Madison residents, the Madison Common Council also passed a resolution raising the community’s substantial concerns with basing the F-35A mission at Truax Field.”

It continued: “Macomb County, Michigan’s residents and elected officials welcome a potential F-35 mission and have consistently offered community support to Selfridge and its tenants. Selfridge offers the capabilities and facilities ideally suited to sustain F-35 operations.”

40% of Wisconsin’s Corn is Still in the Fields

Confirmation of my comment about the weak harvest for opening weekend of the gun deer season. The deer are sitting in the corn fields.

As winter weather moves into the state, Wisconsin farmers have not finished harvesting this year’s corn crop.

The latest crop progress report from the state’s U.S. Department of Agriculture office shows only 57 percent of corn for grain has been harvested. That’s 22 days behind last year and 18 days behind the five-year average.

Jerry Clark, agriculture educator for University of Wisconsin-Extension in Chippewa County, estimates about 20 percent of his county’s corn crop is still in the fields.

“The corn crop is usually harvested and in storage by Thanksgiving here in western Wisconsin,” Clark said. “The moisture content is the real kicker this year because it’s still high as far as being in the upper 30 percent moisture.”

Clark said grain moisture percentage is usually in the low 20s or teens by this time of year. But late planting this spring and challenging weather throughout the season delayed crop maturity.