Legislature considers allowing districts tax cap exemptions for safety expenditures

2013-01-13T00:00:00Z 2013-01-13T07:59:34Z Legislature considers allowing districts tax cap exemptions for safety expendituresBy MATTHEW DeFOUR | Wisconsin State Journal La Crosse Tribune

In 2009, Wisconsin lawmakers gave school districts the opportunity to raise $86 million for school safety improvements, but in the last state budget, Gov. Scott Walker and the GOP-led Legislature eliminated the provision.

Now, in the wake of last month’s horrific school shooting in Connecticut, some Republicans and Democrats are talking about reinstating the measure.

Sen. John Lehman, D-Racine, said he plans to advocate restoring it in the upcoming budget. He led a Legislative committee on school safety that in 2009 recommended boosting safety funding with an exemption from state-imposed limits on district revenues.

“This nonclassroom expenditure shouldn’t be capped in the same way that classroom expenditures are capped,” Lehman said. “School boards ought to be able to put school safety first.”

Sen. Luther Olsen, R-Ripon, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, said he would consider supporting such a proposal.

“Folks are sensitive to what happened out in Sandy Hook,” Olsen said, referring to the elementary school in Newtown, Conn., where the shooting took place. “They’re looking at saying, ‘What do we need to do to keep our kids safe?’”

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said such exemptions are unnecessary.

“School districts can use the money they already receive to address security issues as well as to provide an excellent education for our children,” he said.

Walker spokesman Cullen Werwie said the exemption was removed from the last budget because “numerous exemptions made it difficult for communities to hold the line on property tax increases.” Detailed school funding proposals will be included in the governor’s budget proposal next month, he said.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said through a spokesman it’s too early to discuss budget questions.

Dan Rossmiller, a lobbyist for the Wisconsin Association of School Boards, said he wasn’t aware of any school districts that scrapped plans to add security measures as a result of the 2011-13 budget change, but the association will be discussing with members the need for more school safety funding at its annual meeting later this month.

Exemptions removed

Under the complex school funding formula, the state puts caps, known as “revenue limits,” on the amount of state aid and local property taxes school districts can use to pay for education. The amount doesn’t include federal funding or some special state program dollars.

The limit averaged about $9,809 per student last year, which was the lowest level since the 2007-08 school year and the first time the amount had decreased from one year to the next.

In 2009-11, the Legislature created four exemptions to the revenue limits, allowing districts to raise additional property taxes for certain expenditures, such as school safety. They were the first targeted exemptions since revenue limits were created in 1993.

But lawmakers eliminated all of the exemptions except one for energy efficiency projects in the 2011-13 budget.

The school safety exemption would have allowed districts to raise $100 per student for things like security officers, door lock systems or anti-bullying programs. For Madison, that would have raised about $2.5 million.

Madison spokeswoman Rachel Strauch-Nelson said the district considered using the school safety exemption before it was removed but determined it wouldn’t apply to safety projects that were already in the works.

Districts can ask voters to exceed revenue limits with more property taxes through a referendum, but the energy efficiency exemption requires only a school board resolution. So far, at least 79 school boards have passed 122 resolutions approving more than $29 million in additional property tax revenue for the energy efficiency projects, according to the Department of Public Instruction.

Safety plan required

School districts are required to have a safety plan and many urban districts, including Madison, have a police officer assigned to some of the schools. But in rural areas, where school safety problems don’t occur as regularly, safety is more likely to take a back seat to technology or other curricular needs, Lehman said. But since the Connecticut shooting, rural districts are talking about what else can be done, Olsen said.

School safety doesn’t only refer to an external threat, said Glenn Schmidt, a former local union director for the Wisconsin Education Association Council who testified before the 2009 Legislative committee. In visiting dozens of schools in recent years, Schmidt found teachers concerned about an increase in youth violence, bullying and aggressive behavior toward adults.

“Danger for kids runs a very, very wide spectrum and as you address it, you end up taking resources from something else,” Schmidt said.

Still, there may not be much legislative support for reinstating the school safety exemption, said Dale Knapp, research director for the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance. Republicans, who control the Senate and Assembly, would prefer to let districts decide what to fund rather than introduce specific exceptions to the revenue limits, he said.

“It’s kind of like how they mucked up the income tax when you add exemptions for this, that and the other thing,” Knapp said. “If you think these things are a priority, just bump up the limit and let districts decide.”

Increasing school funding

Questions about adequate funding for school safety will be part of a larger debate about K-12 education funding in the upcoming state budget after the last budget made the deepest education cuts in state history.

The state share of K-12 education is $5.9 billion this year, or about 62 percent of district revenues. The share is down from a two-thirds commitment required by a 1993 state law that was eliminated in 2003.

Olsen supports a $200 per pupil increase in school district funding in each of the next two years, which would boost money available to districts by about $510 million over the biennium.

However, he said he would support increasing state aid by only about $300 million, meaning the rest would come from local property taxes.

Other Republicans, including Walker and Vos, want to keep property taxes frozen.

State Superintendent Tony Evers has proposed increasing revenue limits by $225 per student next year and $230 per student the following year. He also has proposed increasing state aid by $615 million, which would keep property taxes flat under those revenue limit increases.

DPI spokesman John Johnson said the department would support reinstating a revenue limit exemption for school safety.

“We support targeted revenue limit exemptions that we consider wise investments,” he said.

Copyright 2015 La Crosse Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(19) Comments

  1. 19283746591
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    19283746591 - March 02, 2013 10:26 pm
    He's just a "special kind of stupid". Too hard for him to know the difference between your and you're also.
  2. LAXTEA
    Report Abuse
    LAXTEA - January 14, 2013 7:37 am
    But you are a special kind of stupid. (and cowardly)
  3. LAXTEA
    Report Abuse
    LAXTEA - January 14, 2013 7:36 am
    You just don't get it. THE reason psycho goth-nerds on prozac choose schools and that we are even talking about it is simply that it's a gun free victim zone. They don't want a firefight. They kill themselves when they hear a siren!

    I don't agree with paying a cop to stand by the door of every school dog-training them into submission to authority. I would rather simply that THEY themselves and their teachers are responsible for their own safety, and that they learn to understand that.

    Allowing school staff to carry at work (like many of them do the rest of their life) would change that paradigm and solve the alleged problem.
  4. TeapartiesR4L'ilGirls
    Report Abuse
    TeapartiesR4L'ilGirls - January 13, 2013 11:27 am
    If you're going to call someone stupid Steve, don't say "YOUR a special kind of stupid." It just makes people laugh at you.
  5. Balancr
    Report Abuse
    Balancr - January 13, 2013 11:16 am
    Actually, You changed the subject, Steve. Tea pointed out that the Sandy massacre's mother was trained (she took him to the range) and weapons were in the house. Then you changed the subject - because he had you.
  6. stevelovegolf
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    stevelovegolf - January 13, 2013 10:49 am
    oh teaparty i know the difference just throwing u a pitch u can hit. It continues to show everyone your a special kind of stupid.
  7. TeapartiesR4L'ilGirls
    Report Abuse
    TeapartiesR4L'ilGirls - January 13, 2013 10:46 am
    LAXTEA

    And apparently you cannot recognize sarcasm in the comment about her knowing how to use guns.

    So, yes one can sneak up against someone who has arms and kill them. Imagine that. But I suppose you think it won't happen in an area that was formerly a gun-free zone.
  8. LAXTEA
    Report Abuse
    LAXTEA - January 13, 2013 10:34 am
    Lanza's whole plan that day centered on the gun free victim zone. His mother reportedly DID know how to use guns. She was very proficient. Having your son sneak up behind you and shoot you in the head is indefensible.

    Apparently you can't think past the Feinstien/Reid talking points.
  9. Tim Russell
    Report Abuse
    Tim Russell - January 13, 2013 10:06 am
    Do you think the kids from Sandy Hook Elementary were the only people killed by gun violence that day? Do you think anybody died as a result of gun violence on the day the woman in Loganville GA shot the intruder?
  10. TeapartiesR4L'ilGirls
    Report Abuse
    TeapartiesR4L'ilGirls - January 13, 2013 10:01 am
    Steve

    Apparently it hasn't been too easy for you to learn the difference between to, two, and too.
  11. lookout
    Report Abuse
    lookout - January 13, 2013 9:51 am
    He, like everyone else always takes things to the extreme. If they want to do away with military rifles, all of a sudden people start screaming, Oh my god their taking all of our guns away, take all of our rights away and their going to lock us up if we say anything. If we read about someone being shot, all of a sudden their saying 20 people shot some guy. People are their own worst enemy, they let their own brains make up crappp just to make themselves seem more important or to prove a point that wasn't win-able. Stick to the facts, your brain well thank you for it.
  12. stevelovegolf
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    stevelovegolf - January 13, 2013 9:33 am
    that was to easy. one factual post and teaparty has to attack and divert away from his stupid post.
  13. TeapartiesR4L'ilGirls
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    TeapartiesR4L'ilGirls - January 13, 2013 9:21 am
    This revenue limit exemption if implemented by many districts to put an armed guard in each school building will cost lots of money. As the revenue limit is a combination of state aid and local property taxes, will the legislature and Scooter be providing additional funding so local property taxes are not dramatically impacted? The increase just to fund this will likely be even more than regular increases in the limit when they were allowed to increase by a CPI adjustment.

  14. TeapartiesR4L'ilGirls
    Report Abuse
    TeapartiesR4L'ilGirls - January 13, 2013 9:15 am
    By the way, Steve, the singular form is woman.

    We know from your previous posts you have writing issues. You also seem to have reading comprehension issues.
  15. TeapartiesR4L'ilGirls
    Report Abuse
    TeapartiesR4L'ilGirls - January 13, 2013 9:13 am
    Steve

    Where in my comment did I say anything about taking away the gun away from that woman in Georgia?

  16. stevelovegolf
    Report Abuse
    stevelovegolf - January 13, 2013 8:42 am
    teaparty how about the women in Loganville Ga. who shot the intruder and saved her family. You want to take her guns too dont you?
  17. TeapartiesR4L'ilGirls
    Report Abuse
    TeapartiesR4L'ilGirls - January 13, 2013 8:02 am
    Tea

    The first stop and first location of death at Sandy Hook was not a gun-free zone. The sticker was not necessary as the killer knew darn well this place had guns.

    If only his mother had been armed and known how to use guns, she could have protected herself and prevented the entire massacre.

    Save your solutions for the right call-in shows on AM radio.
  18. LAXTEA
    Report Abuse
    LAXTEA - January 13, 2013 7:16 am
    Similar to the ridiculous TSA response to 9/11 this is going to create another complete failure of a government program. Your kids are going to get groped and dog-trained to submit to the government.

    Meanwhile I could fix the Sandy Hook thing with $7 worth of stickers. Just put a sticker on every door saying "This School is NOT a Gun Free Zone". Done.
  19. Napoleon
    Report Abuse
    Napoleon - January 13, 2013 3:01 am
    We've got a TSA for airplane travel, so maybe we need a federal agency for school security? Because it's not enough to just wing it at the local level, this is a job for the professionals.

    A good security plan consists of many components working together in concert with each other. Good locks, cameras, security guards, foreknowledge of potential threats, politeness, realistic training, realistic drills, lighting systems, reliable security personnel, situational awareness,... one 'magic' thing won't make the school secure, but do all these things at once, different deal. This basic principle applies everywhere.

    "After the Ma’alot massacre in 1974, Israel instituted a policy in which volunteer school personnel, parents, and grandparents received special training from the civil guard, and were seeded throughout the schools armed with discreetly concealed 9mm semiautomatic pistols. Since that time, there has been no successful mass murder at an Israeli school,.." - Massad Ayoob
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