Wow. Some quality reporting from the Washington County Insider.
A discussion about the mill rate was initiated toward the end of Monday night’s budget discussion.
Board member Ongert: “So are you suggesting the mill rate could go down even more during the 2019-2020 budget?”
Andy Sarnow: “I don’t know yet, so I don’t want to say because I haven’t made that calculation.”
Board member Nancy Justman: “Well considering some of the criticism we endured during the referendum that we need to ‘live within our means’ I would say dropping the levy or not taxing to the max would be detrimental to us. I’m not sure why we would even think about doing that personally.”
Ongert: “Plus I heard loud and clear people think we have too much debt in the West Bend School District and if that’s what’s preventing people from voting ‘yes’ on the referendum then let’s maintain the mill rate and pay down even more debt, if that’s what our community wants. Dropping the mill rate just to see how low we can go, um… I think is detrimental to our facilities to our staff, to our students. I don’t want to tax the crap out of the community but we need to be able to pay down the debt.”
Justman: “Obviously we have a lot of capital things we have put off. The fact we have carpeting in that building we can assume is at least 40 years old* (statement not confirmed) is frightening. Correction, 48 years*(statement not confirmed).. even more frightening. The idea we have put off items but we also need to make sure we have this balance with our students, we still want to be a destination district. I’m just not in favor at all or decreasing the mill rate at all. I guess you’d have to really come up with some amazing plan to sell me on a plan to do that. I think we should look at increasing it and look at some of these projects that we haven’t been able to get done. I see Dave Ross is happy dancing in the background… as I go on with my rant here. But we really need to prioritize some of these things. We can’t have carpeting that’s 48 years old*(statement not confirmed) and we can’t have projects that Dave is holding together with binder twine to try and get things done. I mean we really need to look at some of these things and if that requires us to raise the mill rate than so be it.”
Ongert: “And our taxpayers are telling us we can’t have any debt.”
Justman: “Well the word was ‘live within your means’ but we don’t sell anything so we have no means but apparently some people don’t understand, so I just want to point out I’m not in favor of decreasing the mill rate.”
So the message that these board members took out of a failed referendum was “increase taxes as much as possible.” How about they keep taxes flat – even as enrollment declines – and prioritize better?