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.
Early morning preparations continue for President-elect Barack Obama's Inaugural Reviewing Stand on Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 31, 2008. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds)
On a grey, gloomy Saturday morning this past March, a meeting on city of Franklin taxes was held at the now defunct 5-Star Coffee. In attendance were Franklin aldermen Steve Olson and Lyle Sohns, Franklin blogger Fred Keller, Franklin citizen Scott Thinnes, and myself.
Keller, who arranged the meeting, had corresponded with me prior and asked me what I thought about extending an invitation to Franklin mayoral candidates to sign a pledge to hold the city property tax levy increase to the rate of inflation, in this case, 3%. I told Keller it was an excellent idea.
More on the mayoral candidates later; Back to the meeting at 5-Star where we attempted to get Olson and Sohns to sign a similar pledge.
I like Alderman Sohns and respect him. But to be honest, on more than one occasion at this meeting where he said he would not support the pledge because it just couldn’t be done, he condescendingly spoke to me about budgets as if I didn’t know the difference between a dollar bill and an electric shaver, apparently forgetting that state document totaling billions and billions I work on every two years.
Sohns riddled me with one excuse after another about why holding the line on taxes was impossible. He also presented me with a copy of the last city of Franklin budget and a rundown of the property tax records of some of the Franklin bloggers, his point being that in his view, taxes weren’t all that bad in our fair city. Seeing the bloggers’ numbers made me chuckle and react with a big, fat, “So what!” I didn’t give up my time to meet with Sohns and Olson to lobby for my own personal tax break. The issue was the property tax levy for every single property taxpayer in Franklin.
Sohns claimed that holding the line was just too tough. His attitude that day was also troubling, that the only way to budget is to tax and spend, tax and spend, without even seriously considering a 3% ceiling.
My goodness, I thought. What if we had asked Sohns to cut 3%? He would have gone right through 5-Star’s ceiling.
Neither alderman signed the pledge, but each said he'd work to produce a responsible budget. But the pledge did get signed.
Franklin Mayor Tom Taylor signed a pledge to, if re-elected, keep the tax levy increase in his proposed budgets at 3 %. Taylor met with Keller to officially sign the pledge just a few days before the April election.
Keller had proposed that the mayor sign a pledge that he would not propose a budget with a property tax levy that exceeds the rate of inflation and would not support a budget forwarded to him by the Franklin Common Council that contains a property tax levy increase that exceeds the rate of inflation.
Here is the pledge Mayor Taylor ultimately signed:
I pledge if elected to another term as Mayor of the City of Franklin that I will not recommend an annual budget to the City's Finance Committee that exceeds a 3% tax levy. This pledge is related to the years 2008 to 2011.
Thomas M. Taylor
Candidate for Mayor
Here are the tax levy percentage increases for the past three City of Franklin Budgets:
Keller then got Taylor’s opponent, Basil Ryan to sign a similar pledge the next day. There was reason it took until the next day: logistics. I blogged at the time:
"Basil Ryan contacted me that he is having trouble connecting with Fred Keller. Ryan writes:Kevin, Please consider this email my official signing of such a pledge.I hearby official certify to you, Kevin Fischer, that I agree to all of the terms of the Fred Keller pledge. And you can take that to the bank.I will continue trying to reach Fred, but I want it on the record, that I have now officially agreed to/signed onto the pledge.Also, I would note for the record that Mayor Taylor's signing of the pledge is too little, too late. As you noted in your blog, every year Taylor has been in office, the tax levy has risen above the parameters of the pledge. I don't need an election to promise to keep taxes under 3%. I will do so every year I am in office.Thank youBasil RyanI have informed Ryan that this isn't good enough. The pledge must be signed.
From the creative folks at Jib-Jab. You may have to play this more than once to catch it all...
THIS IS A SPECIAL YEAR-END EDITION OF CULINARY NO-NO
Reflection is everywhere this time of year as we not only look in the rear view mirror, but also look ahead, and the world of food is no exception.
Award-winning Washington Post critic Tom Sietsema spoke with culinary experts about what’s in and what’s out to dine in 2009. Since the theme of this weekly blog is all about what’s taboo, we’ll focus on the trends that we’ll see less of in the coming year.
Let’s start with this…
The Franklin School Board made some incredible blunders in 2007, the most egregious and unethical being the sneaky manner in which they handled the annual budget.
Board members told the public they approved a school tax levy increase of 5.6%. That was untrue. In fact the final tax levy increase was more than double that. What’s worse, they didn’t tell anybody.
Here are all the ugly details.
One year and two new school board members later, it was déjà vu all over again. At the annual meeting of the electors in August, the public was told the school tax levy increase was going to be 3.7%. Franklin School Board President David Szychlinski made a promise.
“One thing I can tell you is that the board has the intent that it’s going to hold to these numbers,” Szychlinski said. “If the state makes an adjustment sometime down the road, we’ll seek the input of the community as to how we might adapt.”
But hadn’t we heard this routine before?
To their credit, after years of fiscal irresponsibility, the Franklin School Board finally held the line. At its October 22, 2008 meeting, a proposed school tax levy of $29, 464,517 was approved, up from $28,550, 076 the year before. That’s an increase of 3.2%, far better than the 12.7% highway robbery pulled off in the previous budget.
The School Board gained two new members in April 2008 and will get two more next April. More people are paying attention and speaking out about School Board actions. The Board and Superintendent Steve Patz appear to be listening. For now, this is real, positive change. And that’s good news for Franklin taxpayers.
THE TOP 10 FRANKLIN STORIES OF 2008
3) WHAT A DIFFERENCE A YEAR MAKES
4) FRANKLIN'S UGLY MESS: FOUNTAINS OR THE FOXES
5) TOM TAYLOR IS RE-ELECTED....AND HOW
6) TWO INCUMBENT ALDERMEN LOSE RECOUNTS
7) BOOMGAARD OR BUST
8) THE FRANKLIN SCHOOL BOARD GETS TWO NEW MEMBERS
9) BUCKHORN LIVES TO SERVE ANOTHER DAY, AND ANOTHER, AND ANOTHER...
10) MAJOR OPENINGS AT THE SHOPPES AT WYNDHAM VILLAGE