NWTC budget up slightly, but tax levy plummets

April 18, 2014

From greenbaypressgazette.com: “NWTC budget up slightly, but tax levy plummets” — Gov. Scott Walker’s property tax cuts mean a big change in the way Northeast Wisconsin Technical College balances its books.

The community college’s general fund budget for next school is expected to increase by about 1.8 percent from $77.2 million this year to $78.7 million for 2014-15.

But NWTC’s local tax levy will drop by about half, from $59.3 million to $27.6 million, under the Republican governor’s plan to use the state’s projected $977 million surplus to cover property and income tax cuts. The measure, approved by the state Legislature and signed by Walker last month, sends $406 million to technical colleges to reduce property tax levies.

That means the owner of a home valued at $150,000 in NWTC’s district would pay about $115 for that portion of their tax bill, compared with $240 last year.

A public hearing on the budget proposal is set for next month.

“It didn’t give us more money,” NWTC President Jeff Rafn said of the changes. “It just swapped state money for local money.”

NWTC will receive about 42 percent of its funding from the state, compared with 9 percent currently, he said.

“In my view it is good and properly re-balances things,” Rafn said. “The down side would be if they would eliminate property taxes altogether. Then we would become a state institution and would lose local control.”

Some people have expressed concerns that technical schools can raise taxes yet are governed by appointed bodies rather than elected officials, Rafn said. He noted the state’s 2013-15 budget limits property tax increases to value added by new construction in municipalities within the school’s district in the past year, which is anticipated to be less than 1 percent for NWTC.

“Property taxes aren’t going to go up,” he said. “But taking away local control would hamper our ability to make quick local decisions.”

Rafn cited expansion of nursing programs to meet higher demands at NWTC as an example.

The state Legislature has formed a Special Committee on the Review of Wisconsin Technical College System Funding and Governance — co-chaired by Republican Rep. John Nygren of Marinette — to review the process.

As part of next year’s budget, NWTC is looking to increase some offerings, including programs in fire-medic, therapeutic massage and software development.

The school also will expand some programming, such as its health and wellness program and joint programs with area high schools.

It will use grant money to fund a variety of learning coaches and tutors.

The school plans to eliminate a financial institution management program which is losing enrollment, but Rafn said students enrolled in the program still could finish.

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