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This Just In ...

Kevin Fischer is a veteran broadcaster, the recipient of over 150 major journalism awards from the Milwaukee Press Club, the Wisconsin Associated Press, the Northwest Broadcast News Association, the Wisconsin Bar Association, and others. He has been seen and heard on Milwaukee TV and radio stations for over three decades. A longtime aide to state Senate Republicans in the Wisconsin Legislature, Kevin can be seen offering his views on the news on the public affairs program, "InterCHANGE," on Milwaukee Public Television Channel 10, and heard filling in on Newstalk 1130 WISN. He lives with his wife, Jennifer, and their lovely young daughter, Kyla Audrey, in Franklin.

Franklin city budget good but could be better

*SEE UPDATE AT BOTTOM*


Franklin mayor Tom Taylor has submitted his proposed 2012 city budget.  It now goes to the city’s Finance Committee for review. There will be a public hearing before final action is taken by the Franklin Common Council later this year.

Here’s the bottom line. The mayor’s budget includes a city property tax levy decrease of 2.4 %. In his budget message, the mayor also has, as he has done in the past, placed a great deal of emphasis on the city tax rate that falls 7.18%. In a city budget document, the rate by formality must be included, but the rate is meaningless. It’s the levy that counts.

Some would argue a decline in the levy by over two percent is commendable. I submit the cut could be even bigger, especially when you have this quote from Franklin Finance Director Cal Patterson in the mayor’s proposed budget:

“The Mayor recognizes that the Citizens of Franklin are experiencing the same, if not more, economic forces and are subject to similar fiscal influences as the City. As citizens have to conserve at home, the City, too, is trying to conserve while trying to maintain essential services.”

That’s absolutely true.

USA TODAY reported today that the horrific economy has taken its toll on suburbs and the middle class. Unfortunately, locally elected officials seem to be brain dead as to this economic reality. It’s very true here in Franklin.

And yet we have a property tax cut. But...

Here’s an important fact to remember. If not for Governor Walker, Franklin would be looking at a 3-4 percent property tax levy increase.

In a brief about the state budget propsoed by Governor Walker,  the Governor’s office wrote earlier this year:

“In challenging economic times, Wisconsin property taxpayers continue to have among the highest property tax burdens in the country. According to U.S. Census data, Wisconsin ranked ninth among the 50 states in property tax burden as a proportion of personal income in 2008 and has been in the top ten states most of the past three decades. In 2010, property taxes as a percentage of personal income rose to their highest level since 1996 as levy growth exceeded the growth in personal income.”

At the time, Governor Walker proposed limits on property tax levies:

“To further protect property taxpayers, the Governor recommends limiting the base allowable levy to the actual prior year levy. Additionally, if debt service would be lower in the budgeted year than in the prior year, counties and municipalities must pass those savings on to the taxpayers by reducing allowable levies accordingly.
 
In the context of local government aid reductions for schools, technical colleges, counties and municipalities, strong levy controls are important to avoid aid reductions from becoming tax increases for property owners and renters.”

In his 2011-13 state budget approved by fiscally responsible legislative Republicans, there is a much-needed property tax freeze.

In late April, the governor elaborated in an opinion piece published in the Capital Times:

“We need property tax relief.

For too long, middle-class taxpayers have been stuck with the costs of paying for more and more government. In 2000, the average property tax on a median-value home in Wisconsin was $2,110. By 2006 it had risen to $2,729. Today it’s $2,963. Without the property tax reforms in our budget, these middle-class tax bills would rise to $3,425 by 2013.

These increases hurt middle-class taxpayers. They make it harder for the retired couple living on a fixed income to stay in their home or for the young couple who are saving to buy their first house so they can start a family. Rising property tax bills also hurt the blue-collar family who took a pay freeze to keep their jobs and they hurt small businesses that are struggling to cover payroll.

That’s why, amid all the difficult choices we had to make in our new budget, we’re implementing a real property tax freeze.

Our property tax reforms will save the typical taxpayer nearly $750 over the next two years. That’s real money we’re keeping in the pockets of middle-class taxpayers across Wisconsin.”

So the budget process begins in Franklin and in municipalities all across Wisconsin. If Franklin’s pattern holds true, the Finance Committee will rubber stamp the mayor’s budget, Alderman Steve Olson will suggest further cuts, and they will be ignored by his colleagues. The mayor’s budget, with minor changes will be approved almost identical to what was proposed.

We’ll get our city property tax cut, but local officials shouldn’t pat themselves on the back. They should send a thank you note to the Governor’s mansion.


Still to come on This Just In…

Details about a new garbage collection fee for Franklin residents...how our singing mayor sang a different tune between last December and now.


UPDATE:  Walker Budget Works for More Local Governments and School Districts; Saving Taxpayers More Money


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