Monday, September 17, 2012

Yep- G'town and Elmbrook ARE killing themselves

Just over a year ago, I noticed articles in newspapers talking about suburban Milwaukee public school districts that used Gov. Walker's Act 10 "tools" to stick it to their teachers, like the Sykes-suckers that they are. And I centered on the Germantown and Elmbrook districts, and said at the time that these places were slitting their own throats, and using the tools against teachers would come back to bite them. Well, we have another school year that just started up, and let's see where these 2 districts are.

Let's go to Germantown first. The G'town district jacked up the health care premiums and deductibles that teachers had to pay, with the school board arguing that making teachers pay more out of pocket was a way to reduce "unnecessary" usage of insurance, which could keep costs down. At the time, I said
But hey, that $40 a G'towner with a $250K home will save this year is worth it! Even that isn't impressive, because that same homeowner has had their school tax rates go up 16.4% since 2007, which includes the cut this year. And because Germantown schools refinanced $9.5 million in debt last year and now owe $11 million on their borrowing, that's money that'll have to be paid off with higher amounts in future years, bringing the school district back to needing large tax increases, without the tools to offset the cuts from the state. So with a little context, it's obvious that 2011 is a one-time retraction that won't do anything except mark Germantown as unfriendly to the teachers they rely on.
And sure enough, one year later, the teachers have noticed how the school board treated them, and don't want to stay in G'town. And so the district had to start classes this September without a full staff of teachers to meet the district's needs.
The Germantown School District saw an unusual number of resignations before the 2012-13 school year and is continuing to fill five open positions.

...[d]istrict had 22 resignations and seven retirements this year, which is a significant jump over the last six years, Assistant Superintendent Cynthia Coley said during the board's personnel committee meeting this week as she gave an update on staffing to board members.

In the 2010-11 school year the numbers were flipped as there were six resignations and 23 retirements.

"It's hard to know if this is the start of a trend with only one year's worth of data but it is a recognizable spike in terms of resignations," Superintendent Susan Borden said....

During the personnel committee meeting Monday, Borden said districts are just beginning to understand the ripple effects of changes at the state level as a result of Act 10.

She said the term commonly thrown around is "free agency" as educators realize their seniority no longer matters.
Guess what, those free agents are going to go somewhere that they are respected and can get the take-home pay they deserve, and good luck trying to replace them, G'town. At least you have that hoops title from last year.

Now let's go a couple of towns south into Walkershaw County, and check out the Elmbrook School District, which slashed expenses and property taxes by millions in 2011, mostly by shifting the costs over to the teachers. This led to a predictable run on retirements, and combined with a loss of nearly $600,000 in state aid for this year due to Walker's budget, the Elmbrook district had to close 1 elementary school, which has now led to the other elementary schools having 30 kids in classes, and angering parents. One was quoted in a TMJ-4 story as saying "They add 50, 60, 100 kids to the school but no teachers." And now the same school board that allowed this situation to go on has their annual budget meeting for this school year scheduled for next week, and will probably be facing a lot of parents like that one. Have fun dealing with that, ya Brookfield Baggers!

12 months ago, I saw this coming, and said the following:
Not only won't teachers not want to locate there, young families won't choose Brookfield like my parents did 30 years ago. As suburban Boomers become empty nesters and want to downsize their home or retire elsewhere, they're going to have to get rid of their big-lot houses. So that $40 or $60 they save in school taxes this year will probably cost them thousands in home value when they need to cash in their equity 10-20 years down the road.

Then watch those places fall into disrepair and insignificance as they get passed up for somewhere that's better to live in. It's already happening in Elmbrook, where they're talking about closing at least 1 elementary school due to declining enrollment. So this divide and conquer, race-to-the-bottom mentality of low taxes that exists in the 262-area code suburbs who rely on high levels of services may indeed be the source of their own demise.
The declinig home values are certainly happening in Bagger-ific Washington County, (which includes Germantown) as Washington County's median home sales price is down more than 4% vs. last year, and in Charles Sykes' home of Ozaukee County, sales prices are down 6.7% in 2012. By comparison, the median sales price for rest of the state has seen a small increase, so these Bagger counties are already falling behind after only 1 year of Fitzwalkerstan and Act 10 policies.

In addition, now that Act 10 is null and void for public school districts, places like Elmbrook and Germantown will have to shell out huge amounts of back pay to the teachers they decided used the tools on, and will try to pick up the pieces from the fiscal mess that now is going to exist. This will probably result in big property tax increases, along with possible cuts in classes that a lot of students and parents want. Have fun facing the voters after you get done screwing up the schools in towns that really have nothing else of to offer!

And the worst part, these guys did it to themselves. Need I remind you that both Germantown and the Elmbrook district voted more than 2 to 1 for Walker? So it can be argued that results like this is what the people of those communities supported. Now those Baggers get to lie in that bed, while us in the thinking and decency parts of the state will be taking the teachers that you chose to disrespect. So we'll be thriving while their suburbs turn into declining ghost towns. Just breaks my heart, it does.

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