Voters Want School District to Dissolve

Good for them. It’s good to see the citizens being good stewards of their resources and focusing on what’s best for the kids.

The majority of voters in the Palmyra-Eagle Area School District would like to see the district dissolve.

Of the 2,298 votes cast in the Nov. 5 advisory referendum, 1,218 (53%) voted in favor of dissolution; 1,080 voted against it, according to unofficial results released Tuesday night by the school district.

The results of the referendum will be made official on Thursday, Nov. 7, PEASD District Administrator Steven Bloom said.

The nonbinding vote comes seven months after 61% of voters rejected an $11.5 million operational referendum that district officials said was necessary to keep the district afloat.

Wisconsin Senate Rejects Pfaff Appointment

I would argue that it was a vote FOR farmers. He sucked at the job.

MADISON (WKOW) — Governor Tony Evers was outraged by Senate Republican’s decision to reject the confirmation of his pick to lead the state’s Agriculture agency.

Brad Pfaff was Evers Cabinet Secretary to lead the Department of Agriculture, Trade, Consumer Protection (DATCP) agency, a job he’s held since January.

Evers, who appeared in a rare occasion on the Senate floor during the debate, said Republicans sent a message to farmers who are dealing with a farm crisis and on-going trade war.

“This was a vote against Wisconsin farmers, period,” said Evers after the vote.

Act 10 Causing Fewer People to Become Teachers?

I love how the reporter just throws that in there:

The teaching industry has faced multiple obstacles with less applicants entering the field to fill open positions at school districts. Statewide the number of applicants completing a teacher prep institution has fallen 35% since 2010 and the nation has similar numbers, said Director of Teacher Education, Professional Development and Licensing David DeGuire, who works with the Department of Public Instruction. The University of Wisconsin System assigned a task force to examine the issue more closely, he said.

There are many reasons for the decrease, including a tight labor market, the passing of Act 10, the amount of workload pushed onto teachers and a change in how people respect and see the profession.

Try to reconcile the two phrases in bold. So if the entire nation is seeing a similar decline in people wanting to be teachers, how is Act 10 – which is only applicable in Wisconsin – a factor in that? Did the reporter read her own story?

The truth is rooted in the other causes. The booming labor market makes teaching less attractive. When unemployment is 10% or more, teaching is a great job with a very low risk of being fired. When unemployment is 4% or less, other career choices look more attractive.

Also, the push to use schools as social justice laboratories instead of centers of education is likely pushing teachers out. True educators want to do that – educate. They don’t want to be used to try to fix all of the social ills in society.

Madison Plans to Inconvenience Drivers After Taking their Money

Typical.

The plan is still in its early stages, but the Transportation Policy and Planning board met Monday, discussing what routes downtown could look like. Lynch said BRT routes could overlap current Madison Metro lines.

The plan is to connect East Towne and West Towne with dedicated lanes for the buses, limited stops and frequent service. The BRT system is part of the mayor’s larger MetroForward plan announced in September.

“Our BRT buses, one bus will be taking 80 cars off of East Washington Avenue,” Lynch said.

Lynch estimates the bus rapid transit system’s operating cost will be between $3.5 and $4.5 million annually.

The annual $7.8 million coming in from the wheel tax must go toward transportation-related costs. Lynch said $1.4 million of that will go toward the BRT system and about $2.6 million will go to Madison Metro for things including “increasing costs associated with fuel, drivers’ salaries (and) maintenance concerns.”

Madison implemented a wheel tax on the people with cars. Now they will use the money to make it harder to drive in downtown and spend more on buses. Nice.

Time to let college athletes be compensated

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. Here’s a taste:

Everybody is making money — big money — in college athletics except the athletes playing the games. That needs to change.

[…]

College athletes are adults. It is fundamentally unjust for thousands of people to make money off of their talent while they are prohibited from doing so. This is especially true considering that the athlete is assuming all of the risk. How many times, for example, has a star college athlete destined for the pros suffered a career-ending injury before they were ever able to earn a single dollar for all of their work and talent?

Whether universities should actually pay athletes a salary outside of scholarships is certainly questionable. Universities are not in the business of sports and public universities, in particular, should not use tax dollars to pay athletes. But if a local car dealership, law firm, or restaurant wants to pay a prominent college athlete to use their likeness in their advertising, why should that be prohibited? Who is harmed by that transaction? Nobody.

Several states and the NCAA are already moving to allow college athletes to earn money for themselves as they are earning money for everyone else. Wisconsin should be the next state to do so.

 

West Bend Common Council Appoints Interim Mayor

From the Washington County Insider:

November 4, 2019 – West Bend, WI – West Bend Common Council has unanimously voted to appoint Council President Steve Hoogester as acting mayor until the April 7, 2020 election.

According to City Attorney Ian Prust, said Hoogester can still retain his seat as District 6 alderman and he does not have to run for council again just by taking this post.

Prust said, should there be a tie vote on an issue, Hoogester has to notify the council ahead of time that he will abstain as alderman to make a vote as mayor.

City administrator Jay Shambeau and Prust said a tie situation would be extremely rare as a council member would need to be absent to create a situation for a tie vote to occur.

This seems like a good way to address the issue.

CBD Glut

The market is still trying to find equilibrium.

About 65% of U.S. hemp farmers lack a buyer for their crop this season, leaving them few alternatives, according to a July survey by Whitney Economics. Hemp has less infrastructure than other crops, so farmers cannot rely on selling their crop to a local grain elevator.

“People entered in on speculation,” said Chase Hubbard, hemp commodities analyst at The Jacobsen, a price reporting agency. “The results could be tragic for some small farmers.”

The 2018 Farm Bill coincided with a boom in the market for food, drink and cosmetic products laced with CBD, an industry that Wall Street firm Cowen & Co has estimated to grow to $16 billion by 2025.

Enticed by projections that hemp would bring $750 in profits per acre – well above the $150 or less from a typical acre of soybeans – farmers placed their bets on a crop that had been illegal for most of their lifetimes.

Last April, as farmers planted, a pound of hemp biomass sold for about $40. Now, as farmers harvest and take their crops to market, the same amount sells for $18-$25, according to PanXchange, a commodities platform.

Washington County Tax Rate

While appreciated, this is not the whole story.

By Melanie Boyung

Special to Conley Media

WASHINGTON COUNTY — The county tax rate is set to drop to its lowest levels since 1917.

In October, the Washington County Executive Committee gave unanimous approval to the 2020 budget proposal for Washington County. That committee’s approval moves the budget forward to the full County Board, which is expected to take it up this month.

The 2020 recommended budget has a $2.298 tax rate; the rate for 2019 was $2.393, 9.48 cents higher than the current proposal, according to county budget documents. That $2.298 tax rate is the lowest in more than a hundred years — County Administrator Josh Schoemann wrote in the budget book that it is the lowest since World War I.

While the tax rate is comparable to a hundred years ago, that does not mean tax bills will be the same. The tax rate is the amount paid by a property owner per $1,000 of property value, and property valuation has risen a great deal in the past century. Owners of a $225,000 home would therefore owe $517.10

Do you know what else the taxpayers of Washington County didn’t have to pay? A county sales tax. So while the county has been able to decrease the tax rate on the back of increasing property values, they have been able to keep spending more by extracting more tax revenue from the same taxpayers through the sales tax.

Around the Bend by Judy Steffes

Grand opening date posted at new Fleet Farm in West Bend

The shiny, new Fleet Farm on the hill on W. Washington Street in West Bend is getting set to open. A sign on the door of the stores announces the grand opening will be Friday, November 22. That’s a week ahead of Black Friday, Nov. 29.

One new product customers in West Bend will find on the shelves at Fleet will be beer, wine and spirits.

The city clerk in West Bend confirmed Fleet secured a license to carry alcohol. It will be at both the store and the Fleet convenience store/gas station.

“Fleet Farm stores that have opened since 2018 carry a selection wine and beer, as well as packaged grocery items,” said Christopher Zulfer, Division Vice President, Fleet Farm. “Our beer selection includes more than 200 beer items, including national and local craft beers. Our wine selection includes more than 225 items from a wide variety of vineyards.”

A record check in the city assessor’s office shows Fleet Farm Properties LLC sold the 69.7 acres of vacant land to Store Spe Mills Fleet II 2017-7 LLC for $3 million on June 19, 2019.

Challenging process of picking an interim mayor in West Bend

On Monday, Nov. 4 the West Bend Common Council will hold a special meeting at 5 p.m. The hot topic will be, Discussion on the Vacancy Created by the Resignation of the City of West Bend Mayor  2. Filling the Office of Mayor

On Monday, Oct. 21, 2019, at the West Bend Common Council meeting Mayor Kraig Sadownikow announced he was resigning his seat effective immediately. Sadownikow stepped down citing a conflict between his business and his position with the City.

The state has a legal process on filling the vacant mayoral seat, which comes up for election in April 7, 2020.

City administrator Jay Shambeau said filling the seat will “not be an easy answer to come to.”

There are three options on the table; the council can appoint the council president or an alderman or a citizen from the City.

Option 1: appoint council president

The current council president is Dist. 6 alderman Steve Hoogester. In the past, when the mayor needed to recuse himself from an issue before the council it would be Hoogester who would take over the meeting.

“If Hoogester or another alderman, is appointed mayor then he must resign as alderperson, so he no longer has that seat,” said Wisconsin Election Commission staff counsel Michael Haas. “The statute says if there’s a vacancy in the office of mayor then it’s filled by the common council unless a special election is ordered which is probably not likely if it’s a short-term vacancy. The council would need to decide, and the alderperson would need to decide.”

Hoogester has been council president since February 2018 after Dist. 2 alderman Steve Hutchins resigned. “It’s an interesting thought,” said Hoogester about the mayoral position. “It’s something I’d be willing to do and fill in for five months; do the best I can and keep things moving forward.”

A wrench in the works, however, is if Hoogester would leave his seat as alderman, he would have to run for office again. “My aldermanic seat is not up for election in 2020 and if I’d have to vacate after five months I’d be out. That’s not on my list of priorities,” he said.

Hoogester said he would take a “wait-and-see approach” on how things shake out at Monday’s meeting.

Option 2 : leave the seat vacant or appoint an alderman

Another option, the council could choose to leave the office vacant and just delegate authority to the council president or someone else to do whatever the mayor would do whether it’s signing documents, etc.

An alderman could also be appointed. Then their seat would be vacant and that could be filled by appointment as well.

On October 17, Dist. 5 alderman Rich Kasten announced his candidacy for mayor.   According to Haas, “In a non-partisan election you can actually run for mayor and alderperson and if you win both you can choose which office you want.”

Kasten said last week, he is not interested in filling in the next five months as mayor however he is committed to running for the seat in April.

Option 3: city representative

The City could take applications from anybody interested and then, according to Haas, “everybody has a fair shot at applying and trying to convince the council they’re the right person.”

Deb Anderson was the alderperson in District 7 from April 2010 until April 2012 when she chose not to run for re-election. Anderson stopped at City Hall to inquire about being appointed to fill the short-term seat.

In a Wednesday night phone call Anderson said she did not want to run for mayor, but she could fill in for the next five months. She said her schedule was flexible and this way an aldermanic seat would not be unrepresented until the April 7, 2020 election.

During Anderson’s one term on the council she was a member of the Library Board, she helped drum up attention for the Barton Business District, and she expressed caution in 2012 when then Mayor Sadownikow encouraged aldermen to sign “Budget Pledge” to not raise the tax rate.

Anderson used to be the property manager for River Bend Senior Village. Most recently she headed up the Washington County Senior Center. Now she volunteers at the Senior Center.

On a side note: The city council will be voting on its 2020 budget in the coming weeks. On the table is a discussion on whether to keep a flat tax rate of $7.79 or raise it six cents to $7.85 for 2020.

Monday’s Special Meeting begins at 5 p.m. in the council chambers at City Hall, 1115 S. Main Street, in West Bend. The meeting is open to the public.

West Bend School District report on declining enrollment

West Bend School District Superintendent Don Kirkegaard outlined enrollment trends during the Monday night, Oct. 28, School Board meeting. The district indicated “unless there is a change in enrollment trends, the district can expect declining enrollment for the next 8-10 years.”

Superintendent Kirkegaard:

-Our enrollment has been going south. It has been for quite a few years and it’s going to go for quite a few more years.

-We’re down about 600 students since 2006

-There are about 60 kids that open enroll out of Jackson. Jackson area is the largest open enrolling out of the district.

-Projections: I made an assumption that the kindergarten class would stay the same and every kid who is in school this year stays in school throughout their whole career. If you go to the high school, we’re at 2184 this year. If you look at current students in the school, I added 50 kids every year once they become 9th graders, based on Holy Angels and Cabrini, typically the last few years we picked up 50 parochial kids that come to high school. You’re down to 1669 students with both east and west together.

-This isn’t doom and gloom, it’s just reality.

-There are certain districts in the state of Wisconsin that are going up (with enrollment), much of Wisconsin is not and we’re part of that.

-The reason for the decline is we don’t have as many kids coming through the system. Most people have two kids, one kid, three kids…

-The second Friday in January there is another student count. Typically, the January count is less than the September count.

-The third Friday of September is the official count date for district enrollment. See first chart below. The second chart shows a 14-year comparison of actual students in seats at schools in the West Bend District.

Chart 5 shows a 9-year projection of enrollment based on current students in the district and a flat kindergarten enrollment based on 364 students.

On a side note: The West Bend School District Private Task Force studied the school district and its facility needs over the summer. It released a report of findings on October 14. One of the findings considered the declining enrollment and loss of state aid.

Randy Stark – task force member: How do we take older inventory offline and replace it.

Options: We could do nothing. Keep spending $1.5 mil a year on facilities.  Retain all building and come up with money and address immediate capital needs however the design characteristics with concerns can’t be changed. Even if come up with $22.5 mil – we still have 80% of square footage is getting older.

Replace Jackson – in 25-year plan – solves some problems but only addresses one building.

“Perhaps a school in Jackson is no longer justified,” said Randy Stark from the Task Force.

Construct one new school (783 capacity) at a south side location and expand Green Tree. Close/sell Jackson School, Jackson land, Decorah, Fair Park, District Offices, Rolfs & Maintenance. Develop a single central campus on the south side of WB.

Doug Barnes from Zimmerman Architectural Studios – “Other school districts that have consolidated include New Berlin which has closed four schools and Beaver Dam has closed elementary schools and consolidated and Racine.”

West Bend Common Council to honor veterans on Monday, November 4

On November 4 the West Bend Common Council will honor all Veterans during its regular Monday night meeting as elected officials pay tribute to those who have served our country.

The event is organized by Common Sense Citizens of Washington County. The ceremony begins at 6 p.m. in the West Bend High School Silver Lining Auditorium.

All veterans will be recognized. Anyone in need of free transportation is encouraged to call 262-335-5123. The event is free and open to the public. Items for Support the Troops will be collected during the event and distributed as care packages to troops serving in the U.S. military.

Railroad crossing in Allenton expected to open Saturday, November 2

Work crews are taking advantage of the 40-degree temps and finishing the approach to the Canadian National Railroad crossing on Highway 33 in Allenton.

Contractors expect the road to reopen Saturday, November 2.

Wisconsin Central Ltd. (Canadian National Railway), has been reconstructing its railroad crossing located between Weis Street and County Road W since Monday, October 28.

To complete this work, crews required a full closure of WIS 33 at the crossing from Monday, October 28 until Friday, November 1.

The Town of Addison and Washington County Highway Department received numerous complaints about the crossing being hazardous and the noise when crossing was unsettling.   This crossing was repaired in 2014 and Canadian National has had to make repairs since.

Part of the major repair will include a complete removal of the base material, the ties and rails along with the approach from both sides of the track. Railroads own and are responsible for the track and up to 50 feet on each side.  This crossing was originally scheduled to be done in August.

On a side note: A train passed through the construction area at 1:38 p.m. on Monday. Interesting because the contractors are going to be pulling up the track during this repair.

Morrie’s West Bend Honda announces opening date

The street sign is in place, the parking lot has been blacktopped and the driveway to Highway 33 has been poured and Morrie’s West Bend Honda has officially announced its opening date.

According to general manager Bob Splitstoesser the West Bend Honda store will open Friday, Nov. 15. Contractors broke ground in November 2018. Morrie’s West Bend Honda is at 3215 W. Washington Street on the southwest corner of Highway 33 and Scenic Drive.

Morrie’s new Honda facility will create approximately 60 new good-paying jobs. Morrie’s West Bend Honda will feature customer parking for 40 standard and two barrier-free parking stalls.

The site plan identifies 248 stalls for vehicle display and loaners, 6 rental stalls, 75 service stalls, 74 employee stalls.

Bloomin’ Holidays Wine Walk is sold out                     By Jessica Wildes

Bloomin’ Holidays Wine Walk  is Saturday, Nov. 9 from 4 p.m. – 7 p.m.  Shop, sip, and swoon over the sights of downtown West Bend at the inaugural Bloomin’ Holidays Wine Walk. Start at the Museum of Wisconsin Art for your first taste and explore floral arrangements in the art galleries and an indoor artist marketplace. Then head to 20 more nearby destinations for wine, treats, and shopping along the way.

SOLD OUT! Join the wait list. Contact Jessica at 262-247-2266 or jwildes@wisconsinart.org. Please note that we cannot add additional registrants. If a registered participant cancels, we will work from the wait list. Registered Participants: Keep an eye out for event details in your email on Monday, November 4.  At check in, plan to bring your photo I.D. to verify your age (21+). No tickets are needed since everyone has pre-registered online. Your reservation will be held under your last name at check-in.

UWM at Washington County golf team wins major awards in final season | By John Minz

The UW Milwaukee – Washington County State Championship winning Golf Team had four members earn top spots on the WCC All-Conference Teams.

Antonio Feciskonin is the Wisconsin Collegiate Conference Player of the Year.  He was medalist in both the Wildcat Invite at WCGC and the Wombat Invite at The Bull.  He finished the state tournament, held at Mascoutin CC, 10 strokes ahead of 2nd place.  He’s the 4th Wildcat in the last five years to be named Player of the Year.

Jacob Eichline is on the WCC First Team All-Conference for a second year.  Jacob improved his play from last year finishing 3rd in both the Invites and 4th at State to earn a spot on the 1st team.

Second year player Brad Halverson made the WCC Second Team All-Conference also for a second year. Brad had placed in the top 10 in both the Invites, and a strong 6th place finish at state, to earn a spot on the 2nd team.

Josh Bohn also made WCC Second Team All-Conference.  Despite not playing on a high school golf team, Josh worked hard posted a top 10 in the Wildcat invite and placed 7th at State earning him a spot on the 2nd team.

These are great honors to the Wildcat players for their post season play and their Wisconsin Collegiate Conference State title.

Washington County Trail Sharks wrap up successful season | By Julie L Willmas

The season for the Trail Sharks has come to an end with the State Race on the Trek Trails in Waterloo for the mountain bike team.

With the course being muddy and technical, the athletes were excited to race.  The racecourse was filled with fans, as the 850+ riders slid up and down the slick hills and turns. The Washington County Trail Sharks did not give up as they raced to an 11th place finish for the season.

The team was led this season by medalists Kendra Schmitt (Kewaskum) 1st place, Mike Spangenberg (West Bend) 4th place, and Anja Lanser (West Bend) 1st place. Medalists for the state race….Kendra Schmitt (Kewaskum) 2nd, Anja Lanser (West Bend) 1st

Top 10 in their age group…Gabe Rogaczewski (Slinger) 9th, Fiona Shaw (West Bend) 10th, Mike Spangenberg (West Bend) 7th

Other team athletes… (1 lap)-Aiden Schubert (West Bend) 27th, Nate Sajdak (West Bend) 45th, Brandon Paulson (Slinger) 81st, Kira Zechlin (West Bend) 14th, Ayla Abraham (West Bend) 29th, Shiri Zechlin (West Bend) 43rd

(2 laps)- Lexi Schubert (West Bend) 17th, Will Mauney (West Bend) 12th, Christian Spaeth (West Bend) 21st, RJ Goldberg (Hartford) 22nd, Gabe Kebbekus (Slinger) 44th, Carson Phillips (Slinger) 46th

(3 laps)- Nick Skaalen (Hartford) 33rd

Signing 9/11 Wisconsin Memorial Highway bill into law

An effort to name a 9-mile section of highway that runs through Kewaskum the 9/11 Memorial Highway came to fruition on a snowy afternoon in October as Governor Tony Evers signed the bill into law.

“This Memorial will serve as an important reminder to the people of Wisconsin of the loved ones we lost and the heroes that ran towards danger without a second thought and our nations grit and resilience in times of tragedy,” said Evers.

“Now that we’re 18 years removed from the 9/11 attacks it’s important, we remember and honor this history including the nearly 3,000 innocent lives lost that day including 12 known individuals with connections to Wisconsin and of course Kewaskum’s own Andrea Haberman.”

The bill was spearheaded by Assembly Rep. Tim Ramthun and state Senator Duey Strobel.

Ramthun said the entire process has been a team effort. “This is overdue and it’s the right thing to do,” said Ramthun. “The value of this and the memorial factor will allow us all to never forget what happened to our nation and our state on 9/11; the enduring value is forever.”

Grand opening this week for Ozaukee Christian School in the Town of Trenton

There was a big celebration this past week as Ozaukee Christian School officially opened in the Town of Trenton. Parents, students and staff gathered early Monday morning to give praise and thanks and then cut the red ribbon to enter their new education space.

School administrator Kris Austin was beaming. She said the move to a new, permanent location has been quite a long road but “we just took it day by day and we let God take care of the things we couldn’t control.”

“It’s pretty amazing,” she said. “We had school at Camp Awana on Friday and here we are today with classrooms fully ready to receive kids. We’ve got a great staff, parents and volunteers.”

School board member Keenan Kerrins said it was a phenomenal day to celebrate. “This is our first permanent facility in the 30-year history of Ozaukee Christian School and we are so excited we’ve been able to come this far and to give such opportunity for students and parents alike to be able to experience school and God together,” he said.

Ozaukee Christian used to be located nine miles to the east of their current site in Saukville. As far as enrollment is concerned, Austin said there’s been some loss but great gain.

“We lost a few because this location is just too far for some families, but we picked up 14 new families, primarily from the West Bend area,” she said. “We will also be picking up another new family next week.”

OCS is a non-denominational Christian school founded in 1990.  The current location is 1214 State Highway 33 across from West Bend Lakes Golf Course. Ozaukee Christian School describes itself as “offering outstanding, Christ-centered, non-denominational educational opportunities for students from K3 to eighth grade. We are dedicated to academic excellence with a uniquely Christian perspective—one that places Jesus at the center of everything we do and acknowledges the Bible as our ultimate authority.”

Picking an Interim Mayor in West Bend

From the Washington County Insider:

October 31, 2019 – West Bend, WI – On Monday, Nov. 4 the West Bend Common Council will hold a special meeting at 5 p.m. The hot topic will be, Discussion on the Vacancy Created by the Resignation of the City of West Bend Mayor  2. Filling the Office of Mayor

On Monday, Oct. 21, 2019, at the West Bend Common Council meeting Mayor Kraig Sadownikow announced he was resigninghis seat effective immediately. Sadownikow stepped down citing a conflict between his business and his position with the City.

The state has a legal process on filling the vacant mayoral seat, which comes up for election April 7, 2020.

City administrator Jay Shambeau said filling the seat will “not be an easy answer to come to.”

There are several options on the table; the council can appoint the council president or an alderman or a citizen from the City.

Wouldn’t it be fun if they appointed Sadownikow as the interim mayor?

Chicago Public Schools to Implement Sweeping Social Justice Agenda after Strike

I pity the parents who have to send their kids back to school with these people.

Teachers said the strike was based on a “social justice” agenda and aimed to increase resources, including nurses and social workers for students, and reduce class sizes, which teachers say currently exceed 30 or 40 students in some schools. Union leaders said the strike forced the city to negotiate on issues they initially deemed out of bounds, including support for homeless students.

Lightfoot said a strike was unnecessary and dubbed the city’s offer of a 16% raise for teachers over a five-year contract and other commitments on educators’ priorities “historic.”

The Chicago strike was another test of efforts by teachers’ unions to use contract talks typically focused on salaries and benefits and force sweeping conversations about broader problems that affect schools in large, politically left-leaning cities, including affordable housing, added protections for immigrants and the size of classes.

The agreement approved on Wednesday was not immediately released but Sharkey said some of teachers’ wins could “transform” schools in the district. The full union membership still must hold a final vote on the agreement.

Broad outlines include a 16% raise for teachers during the five-year contract, a new committee to investigate and enforce classroom sizes that surpass limits in the agreement and funding to add social workers and nurses to the city’s schools.

Adam Gitter To Run for Washington County Executive

We have a race

Washington County, WI (October 31, 2019):

On Tuesday, April 7, 2020 the citizens of Washington County, WI will have an option on the ballot for the new position of County Executive. Adam Gitter has stepped forward with the intention of being the first County Executive elected in Washington County, WI. While exploring this opportunity Gitter has found a groundswell of support in the county leading up to his announcement to run for the County Executive position.

“Community and collaboration are what this campaign is rooted in.” Stated Gitter, “Being raised in Washington County has given me a strong sense of home. Partnering that with values I gained through my service in the Army has led me to pursue a career serving my community. Washington County is an excellent place to live and raise a family. We are in a position to empower municipalities by utilizing the sales tax the county collects on behalf of all municipalities and sharing this for more localized control of the dollars. This, among other key issues, is why I am running for the Washington County Executive position.”

Adam Gitter graduated from Kewaskum High School before earning an Associate’s Degree from local UW-Washington County, now going by the name of UWM-Washington County. He earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice and a Master’s of Public Administration from UW-Oshkosh. Gitter served in the U.S. Army with one tour in Afghanistan during 2008 and 2009. He currently serves as the Economic Development Manager for the City of West Bend.

“In addition to the sales tax, it is important that a fee to enter county parks be removed.” Stated Gitter, “A lot of feedback has come from around the county on this topic and ultimately a barrier for entry to parks is not what the public wants.”

Adam Gitter lives with his wife Lindsay, son Duncan and six month old puppy, Bender, in the City of West Bend. He is actively dedicated to serving the local community through involvement in many boards and commissions. Board membership on the county level includes Economic Development Washington County and Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Obama Calls Out Woke Culture

I agree

Mr Obama said that calling people out on social media did not bring about change, and that change was complex.

“Woke” is described as being alert to racial or social discrimination and injustice, along with being aware of what’s going on in the community.

Mr Obama told the audience: “I get a sense among certain young people on social media that the way of making change is to be as judgemental as possible about other people.

“If I tweet or hashtag about how you didn’t do something right or used the wrong verb, then I can sit back and feel pretty good about myself because ‘Man did you see how woke I was? I called you out!'”

“That’s enough,” he said. “If all you’re doing is casting stones, you are probably not going to get that far.”

Mr Obama added that “people who do really good stuff have flaws”.

Next Week is Winter Awareness Week in Wisconsin

Goodness… why does out government treat us like children?

MADISON, Wis. — The winter of 2018-19 was one for the record books in Wisconsin, with the state experiencing heavy snowfalls and dangerously cold temperatures brought on by the polar vortex. To help prepare everyone for what to expect in the months ahead, Gov. Tony Evers has declared Nov. 4-8, 2019 Winter Awareness Week in Wisconsin.

“The extreme cold felt across Wisconsin earlier this year is a reminder of just how dangerous winter can be,” said Maj. Gen. Don Dunbar, Wisconsin’s adjutant general and homeland security advisor. “Take time during Winter Awareness Week to make sure your emergency kits are fully supplied, have your furnace serviced and get your vehicle checked out to make sure its ready for winter road conditions.”

“The time to get ready for winter weather is before temperatures drop and snow is on the ground,” said Dr. Darrell Williams, Wisconsin Emergency Management administrator. “Getting prepared now could help save your life or the life of a neighbor during a winter storm.”

Winter is something that happens every year and has happened every year in the history of humankind. We don’t need a bunch of bureaucrats in state government to remind us that we have winter.

Madison To Implement $40 Wheel Tax

Madison gonna Madison.

MADISON, Wis. (WMTV)– The Madison Common Council passed a new $40 wheel tax for city residents Tuesday night, the highest of its kind in Wisconsin.

Alders voted 11-8 in favor of the tax, according to council members NBC15 reached out to.

Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway proposed the vehicle registration tax in her 2020 budget proposal, in an attempt to fill a budget whole and fund works such as transit upgrades.

The mayor estimates the tax hike will generate almost $8 million for the city.

Mayor Sadownikow returns to private life after a job well done

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

When Governor Scott Walker lost, there was a real sense that something special had come to an end. I felt much the same way when I learned that West Bend Mayor Kraig Sadownikow had resigned to avoid the reality or appearance of a conflict of interest. Mayor Sadownikow was a wonderful example of the citizen self-governance at its best.

When Sadownikow first ran for office, he did so to fix a problem in his home town. As the owner of a local design and build construction company, Sadownikow worked with municipalities throughout Wisconsin and knew first hand that West Bend was a difficult place to do business. He set out with a goal of bringing private sector principles into local government to get West Bend to move at the speed of business.

Up until then, West Bend was run like most Wisconsin municipalities. The local government denizens generally worked hard to not rock the boat. Taxes were steadily increased. The continual borrowing had put West Bend in the bottom 10% of local governments in the state in terms of debt burden. Businesses and homeowners alike chafed whenever they had to deal with local bureaucrats.

Mayor Sadownikow entered office with a fresh perspective of a first-time office holder who wanted to make his city serve the public better. He began by “asking questions that were never asked before,” as he is fond of saying. Through hard work and the cooperation of a conservative, engaged majority on the Common Council, Sadownikow began to change West Bend’s story for the better. The list of accomplishments is impressive for eight years in office.

Throughout Sadownikow’s entire time in office, the City of West Bend did not raise taxes. That is impressive enough, but important to remember as we look at the other accomplishments.

When Sadownikow entered office, West Bend was almost $80 million in debt. The debt service was choking the budget and the city’s bond rating suffered. In eight years, through frugal spending and smart management, the city has reduced that debt by over a third to $53 million. As a consequence, the city’s bond rating has improved and millions of budget dollars have been freed up to fund city services.

While keeping taxes flat and paying down debt, West Bend also increased the unassigned reserve fund. This is the city’s savings account that they can use for unforeseen expenses like a natural disaster or other unforeseen expense. The Government Officers Finance Association recommends a reserve fund of 17% of budget. West Bend’s reserve fund was 11.18% in 2012, but has increased to 25.11% as of 2017. This puts the city in a great financial condition.

While keeping taxes flat, paying down debt, and building the reserve fund, West Bend and Mayor Sadownikow accomplished a lot. City services are as good or better than when Sadownikow assumed office. The city expanded and renovated the police station and city hall. The east side of the river has been beautifully rebuilt with the west side waiting its turn. The city added an industrial park and attracted businesses like Kwik Trip, Fleet Farm, and Delta Defense to build and expand.

Beyond the things one can see, Sadownikow led the improvement of things that are harder to see. Prior to Sadownikow, the public employee unions negotiated their contracts with a midlevel city bureaucrat. Sadownikow ensured that an elected official was at the negotiating table to represent the taxpayers. In the most recent contracts with the fire and police unions, the city ended its unfunded obligation to retirement healthcare. This will help ensure that the city can afford to generously compensate our first responders for years to come for the service they provide.

Often with the help of citizen task forces, Sadownikow reformed city finances, outsourced services where it made sense, made Parks & Recreation self-sustaining, and fostered a culture or customer service, responsiveness, and accountability. While the city might still not quite move at the speed of business, it is catching up.

There are already signs that West Bend is slipping back into its old ways. There is a band of Alderpersons who would rather go back to increasing taxes each year to avoid making hard decisions. The Common Council votes on the 2020 budget next week and we will know very soon how sorely Mayor Sadownikow’s leadership will be missed if the tax increasers get their way.

Mayor Sadownikow said, “Local government is not that hard. Maintain a safe community; look out for the future; and take care of the checkbook.” He certainly accomplished those three things and more. His successor should heed that advice.

West Bend School District Projects Rapid Decline in Enrollment

The West Bend School Board met last night. One of the items they discussed was new enrollment figures and projections. One might remember that the topic of declining enrollment was a key driver in the findings of the West Bend School District Private Task Force. As it turns out, enrollment is dropping faster than even the projections we used. The Washington County Insider has video and extensive coverage.

October 29, 2019 – West Bend, WI – West Bend School District Superintendent Don Kirkegaard outlined enrollment trends during the Monday night School Board meeting. The district indicated “unless there is a change in enrollment trends, the district can expect declining enrollment for the next 8-10 years.”

Superintendent Kirkegaard:

  • Our enrollment has been going south. It has been for quite a few years and it’s going to go for quite a few more years.
  • We’re down about 600 students since 2006
  • There are about 60 kids that open enroll out of Jackson. Jackson area is the largest open enrolling out of the district.
  • Projections: I made an assumption that the kindergarten class would stay the same and every kid who is in school this year stays in school throughout their whole career.
  • If you go to the high school we’re at 2184 this year. If you look at current students in the school, I added 50 kids every year once they become 9th graders, based on Holy Angels and Cabrini, typically the last few years we picked up 50 parochial kids that come to high school. You’re down to 1669 students with both east and west together.
  • This isn’t doom and gloom, it’s just reality.

II don’t know why he would use flat Kindergarten enrollment as a basis given that Kindergarten enrollment has been declining too, but even with that faulty basis, the overall district is declining.

The reality is that enrollment in the West Bend School District peaked 10 years ago with 6,902 students. This year, there are 6,279. That’s a decline of 623 students or 9%. Even the most generous projections show that the district will have just under 5,000 students ten years from now. That is a decline of almost 30% off of the most recent peak.

Again, this is not the fault of the district. While there are some numbers around the edges that have to do with School Choice or Open Enrollment, the main reason is a national demographic trend of people having fewer kids.

The enrollment trend is going to hit the district hard and fast whether the School Board acts or not. Either they can manage the decline or it will manage them. It’s past time for the citizens of the district to put some big issues on the table. The district can’t be run like it has been in the past.

 

Mayor Sadownikow returns to private life after a job well done

Sometimes you don’t really appreciate something until it is gone. That about sums up how I feel about Mayor Sadownikow’s tenure as West Bend’s mayor. My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. Here’s a part:

When Governor Scott Walker lost, there was a real sense that something special had come to an end. I felt much the same way when I learned that West Bend Mayor Kraig Sadownikow had resigned to avoid the reality or appearance of a conflict of interest. Mayor Sadownikow was a wonderful example of the citizen self-governance at its best.

When Sadownikow first ran for office, he did so to fix a problem in his home town. As the owner of a local design and build construction company, Sadownikow worked with municipalities throughout Wisconsin and knew first hand that West Bend was a difficult place to do business. He set out with a goal of bringing private sector principles into local government to get West Bend to move at the speed of business.

Up until then, West Bend was run like most Wisconsin municipalities. The local government denizens generally worked hard to not rock the boat. Taxes were steadily increased. The continual borrowing had put West Bend in the bottom 10% of local governments in the state in terms of debt burden. Businesses and homeowners alike chafed whenever they had to deal with local bureaucrats.

Mayor Sadownikow entered office with a fresh perspective of a first-time office holder who wanted to make his city serve the public better. He began by “asking questions that were never asked before,” as he is fond of saying. Through hard work and the cooperation of a conservative, engaged majority on the Common Council, Sadownikow began to change West Bend’s story for the better. The list of accomplishments is impressive for eight years in office.

[…]

There are already signs that West Bend is slipping back into its old ways. There is a band of Alderpersons who would rather go back to increasing taxes each year to avoid making hard decisions. The Common Council votes on the 2020 budget next week and we will know very soon how sorely Mayor Sadownikow’s leadership will be missed if the tax increasers get their way.

Mayor Sadownikow said, “Local government is not that hard. Maintain a safe community; look out for the future; and take care of the checkbook.” He certainly accomplished those three things and more. His successor should heed that advice.

Taxes Up. Spending Up More.

Despite record taxing, the state will still not have enough to cover it’s projected spending. It’s the spending, stupid.

Wisconsin had the highest budget reserves in 40 years this June largely due to a spike in corporate tax revenues, according to a report from the nonpartisan Wisconsin Policy Forum. However, the report says the state’s reserves are still slightly below the national average and the current state budget will spend $800 million more than the state is projected to take in by 2021.

The analysis looked at Wisconsin’s Annual Fiscal Report that provides data on state taxes, spending and reserves. It shows the state had $1.7 billion in budget reserves after taking in more than $17 billion in tax revenues during the prior fiscal year, which ended June 30. That was a year-over-year increase of 7.4 percent and the largest annual percentage increase since 2000, according to the report.

Jason Stein, a researcher for Wisconsin Policy Forum, said the overall increase in the state’s tax revenues was driven largely by a spike in the amount of Wisconsin corporate tax revenues. He said the state collected more than $442 million in corporate taxes.

“Corporate taxes, especially, rose almost 50 percent,” said Stein. “So, that was the most they have risen, the fastest rate since 1964. So, that’s really an exceptional change. And it was due to a couple things and one of them was due to that federal tax law.”

City Leaders Admit Failure and Ask for State Help

While tragic, this is a local problem and a failure of local leadership. Extracting tax dollars from people in the rest of the state and throwing it at Milwaukee won’t solve the problem. Doing so will reward the failed leadership.

The Milwaukee Common Council sent a letter to Gov. Tony Evers, asking him to send any resources that could help Milwaukee police curb reckless driving.

The letter was sent the day after three children were struck while crossing the street at 22nd and Center streets.

A 6-year-old girl died, and a 10-year-old boy and 4-year-old girl are in critical condition. The driver fled the scene.

In the letter to Evers, Milwaukee aldermen said police and the Wisconsin State Patrol have done what they can in recent months for traffic enforcement, “but until those driving in Milwaukee are compelled to obey laws we seem now to take for granted, we fear more will be injured and worse.”