We’ve seen this happening for several years, but I had not idea the abuse was this bad.
More than 100 school districts have spent $138 million above their state-imposed revenue limits without voter approval since 2009, according to an analysis from the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance.
Since that year, school districts have been able to spend above their revenue caps without first going to voters if the money is being used for projects that are intended to improve energy efficiency in the district. In all, 147 school districts have used the exception.
According to the report, school districts rarely took advantage of the exception until 2012 — after Gov. Scott Walker and Republican lawmakers tightened revenue limits for districts.
During the 2013-14 school year, 53 districts spent $22 million above their revenue limits; 81 school districts spent $37 million the following year and during the current school year, 105 districts — or about one in four — spent $49 million using the exception.
Essentially, here’s the scam… let’s say that a school district mismanaged its maintenance budget and now really needs to replace the windows or boiler in a school. They know that the voters won’t approve a referendum to exceed the revenue limits because of their poor management. So, the school district simply gets a proposal that shows that the new boiler or windows will be more “energy efficient” (as all newer boilers and windows would be), and move ahead with the replacement without voter approval. Problem solved.
It appears that school districts all over Wisconsin have done this to the tune of $138 million in excess spending.