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 baby daughter, Kyla Audrey, in Franklin.
After all, the School Board is the body that has recklessly gone hog wild spending our tax dollars.
Granted, I wish we had stuck these pledges in the laps of candidates much earlier. But the campaign is still on.
Last night, I e-mailed all four School Board candidates, asking them if they would sign a pledge to refuse to vote for school property tax levies that exceed the rate of inflation.
David Works responded almost immediately:
The short answer is yes. But it is usually against my better judgment to make a call like this on the 11th hour without performing the due diligence that I would normally do before addressing any important issue. In my opinion, this was one of the critical failures of the past board ; not completely researching before voting on an issue.
Everything that I have said at open forums and interviews would support maintaining this limit. In addition, I have brought to the table evaluating all Administrative job descriptions before any additional hiring, and the use of more outside grants for the district, as I have obtained for Ben Franklin the past 5 years.
As I stated before, improving academic achievement is my first priority. But I firmly believe that this can be performed while controlling costs in a more business like manner, as in the private sector.
David A. Works”
Dennis Butler responded this morning:
“I am ok with attempting to hold budget increases the rate inflation. Below is a portion of my interview with Janet Evans regarding taxes:
On taxes, Dennis believes, like most educational institutions, Franklin’s annual budget is committed to compensation and debt payments. As such, there is limited flexibility in the budgeting process. Yet, the School Board should attempt to limit the tax impact on our citizens. Guidelines such as capping tax increases at the rate of inflation, or prohibiting the addition of new debt until previously issued debt is repaid, should be considered. If the School Board adopted some specific financial goals such as these, it would exhibit to taxpayers how the school district is attempting to be good stewards of their tax dollars.”
I wrote back to Dennis Butler, saying that’s not what I asked. I asked directly if he would sign a pledge, not if he was OK with ATTEMPTING to hold the line on budget increases.
Last week Ed Holpfer sent me a lengthy e-mail asking me if I had any questions.
Well, I finally came up with a question, didn’t I?
No response from Holpfer.
And no response from Linda Witkowski.
On the issue of school taxes, here is what Janet Evans wrote about her interview with Holpfer:
“On taxes, while he does not agree with the Board on all budgetary issues, Ed believes the Franklin Public Schools have generally been fiscally responsible. He has first-hand knowledge as to the complexities and limitations of the budgeting process. He said there was a time when he was very vocal in his opposition to the way this district spent its money, but over the years, the district has done a much better job in how it has handles the budget. While there are some current concerns over how things were done in the last budget, publicly calling the board fiscally irresponsible would, in his opinion, be a misstatement.
I asked Ed if he saw any areas where cuts in spending might be made. He said, when you look at the large percentage of the budget that goes to cover mandated programs and costs, the percentage of discretionary spending is pretty small by comparison. He is not prepared, at this time, to name areas that he thinks could be cut without performing some due diligence and looking at a cost/benefit analysis.
When asked, if necessary, how he would convince others that cuts in spending needed to be made, Ed responded that to sit on a Board and just vote no to spending issues (especially if you’re the lone no vote) really won’t accomplish anything.”
The Franklin Public Schools have generally been fiscally responsible? Excuse me???
Janet Evans wrote this about her interview on this topic with candidate Linda Witkowski:
“When asked about taxes, Linda said it is easy to say taxes are too high and spending must be reduced but the challenge is deciding what that means. Her expertise as a budget analyst with Waukesha County has given her good insights on the difficulties and opportunities of tight budgets. Linda believes budgets are about choices and managing the partnership. The partnership is with the State of Wisconsin and the City. The State controls 2/3 funding and the City controls growth, affecting property values and student population. This partnership needs to be better understood.”
I do know this. I understand completely what it “means.” All I have to do is look at my tax bill and it takes 0.00000007654 seconds to figure it out. And I also know that bureaucrats are often the least likely to want to cut taxes and spending.
In short, I am underwhelmed by the crop of School Board candidates. They’ve made little, if any effort to contact me, and I’m pretty easy to find.
For me, the two big issues are fiscal responsibility and ethics and credibility. When the Board fixes the fiscal mess, that should go a long way towards taking care of the trust and faith the members have lost in the community.
I think David Works is the real deal. After that, I’m not sure or confident at all. On a scale of 1-10 on how sure I am that new members will play a significant role in improving the Franklin School Board, I’m at a 3.
I certainly hope I’m wrong. But then, that’s not up to me now, is it.