From spooneradvocate.com: “Lawmakers look to lessen technical colleges’ reliance on property taxes” — by Shemane Mills, WPR -Concerns about property taxes have lawmakers looking at other ways to fund the state’s 16 technical schools. They’re also considering changes that could reduce local control of technical schools.

Historically, the property tax has been the largest source of revenue for the Wisconsin Technical College System, a sore point for some taxpayers and the Wisconsin Realtors Association. In the last budget, the state put $406 million towards technical schools in an effort to shift some of the system’s funding away from property taxes.

The WRA’s Joe Murray supports the state increasing its share of funding to 45 percent, but urged lawmakers to consider funding technical schools in the future without any property taxes.

“From our experience, after watching this debate over the last 30-35 years, the only way you ultimately start and keep property taxes going in a certain direction is to take stuff off the property tax,” said Murray.

That leaves the question of where money for technical schools would come from, according to Josh Dukelow from the Fox Cities Chamber of Commerce.

“The same people who pay property taxes to support technical education pay municipal taxes to support law enforcement, pay school taxes to fund primary education, pay income taxes to fund state services, and pay sales tax when they shop or dine,” said Dukelow. “To maintain our premier educational resources in Wisconsin, we will have to pay one way or another.”

Dukelow also expressed concern about possible changes in governance of technical schools, saying a more centralized approach wouldn’t be as quick to meet the needs of local business. He said each area of the state has different workforce needs that may not be suited for state control.

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From madison.com: “Q & A: Madison College providing ‘direct line’ to jobs, says president Jack Daniels” — Last summer Madison College (Madison Area Technical College or MATC) welcomed a new president, Jack Daniels, to lead the community of 40,000 students after the retirement of former president Bettsey Barhorst.

A psychologist by training, Daniels led community colleges in Los Angeles, Springfield, Ill., and Houston before landing his current job. In Madison, he is tasked with addressing sharp cuts in state aid to technical schools as well as new state mandates that tie technical college funding to a variety of measures, including the rate at which their graduates find employment.

Why might somebody seeking a bachelor’s degree go to MATC and then transfer to a four-year college? Why not just go directly to the four-year institution?

Sometimes the transition for high school students to a system that is very large is challenging. UW has large classes; they’re basically auditoriums. Students don’t get the one-on-one interaction that they would at MATC. It eases them into that transfer ability.

And then for returning adults — our average age is 29 — it’s an opportunity for them to ease back into that 4-year grind, to understand where their strengths are and their weaknesses. Especially for people who come from a low-income background, where the affordability goes hand in hand with accessibility.

It seems like a lot of that could just be criticism of our higher education system in general, the high price of four year colleges, the large class sizes.

I don’t want to call it a criticism because they have their own resource issues and challenges. Those are research institutions and their cost of running is much greater than ours. But it is no different from across the country. In fact, in California, there will be a 5-to-1 difference in a unit cost between a four year institution and a community college there. It is not as drastic here.

Do many Madison College students just seek a liberal arts Associate’s degree without intending to transfer for a Bachelor’s degree?

Normally students doing a liberal arts Associate’s are seeking to transfer. I haven’t seen cases where that would not be happening.

What are typical Associate’s degrees that you’d get if you’re not planning to transfer to get a Bachelor’s degree?

Well, I go back to my 60 percent of students in the trades. Automotive technician, diesel equipment technician… these are normally not transfers. It’s difficult, because many of these degrees can’t transfer to programs at four-year institutions.

But take an Associate’s degree in advanced manufacturing. Now I could very well transfer to the school of engineering, however, what (Madison College has) developed are career pathways, so as soon as I complete my (degree) in advanced manufacturing I can actually go to work in a manufacturing company. I think the same thing holds true for health. You can transfer to get your Bachelor’s degree in nursing, but you can also go to work with that Associate’s degree in nursing. Same thing for respiratory therapy, physical therapy and all the health areas.

Do you think that focus on careers is lacking at four-year institutions?

I’d probably be a little disadvantaged to speak about that. I haven’t been at a four-year institution in many years.

But an interesting thing here, with many liberal arts degrees, students can’t get jobs once they get their baccalaureate. They’re coming back to MATC after getting their baccalaureate. We have a high number of baccalaureate graduates who are coming to get further training to go to work. We have a high number of graduates from UW-Madison who are coming to get a paralegal degree. Same thing with biotechnology. And then we have those relationships with those (biotech) companies, like ProMega, so you have direct line to those areas.

Is there enough funding for technical colleges in this state?

(Laughs) There’s never enough funding for them. We’re experiencing a different type of funding now. Our funding will be more dependent on the state than property tax dollars. But you never have enough resources. It causes us to look at our priorities. Where do we shift dollars? We try to supplement that with grants and we also have substantial support from our foundation, especially with regards to scholarships for our students.

Does the foundation get most of its support from individuals, including alumni, or more from other nonprofit organizations?

The latter. We don’t have an alumni association. That’s one of the goals we have for the next year, to develop that. Because I’m quite sure that the number of students who have gone to MATC — and I’ve talked to a number of them in the past week — say, “Without MATC, we wouldn’t be here.” You hear these stories over and over again.

Talk to me about the new performance-based funding that has been mandated by the state.

In the first year, which starts July 1, there is a certain funding set aside and 10 percent of that is based on performance. There are nine (performance) categories and among them we will select seven of them on which we will be measured. In the next biennium it will go to 20 percent (based on performance) and then the following year it will go to 30 percent.

We’re confident in those categories. We do very well.

Do you think this performance-based funding is a good development?

I think there’s a necessity to have some level of accountability. If you think about it as a true developmental model, if you have a school that is not performing, what types of interventions do you make to make sure it is performing? But I think the 10, 20, 30 model is good. I wouldn’t want to see it go much higher than that.

But if a school is under-performing, how is cutting its funding going to improve it?

That’s a good question. I would think there would have to be some other guidelines set for how long do you get that funding. I don’t think you can cut it off immediately.

We are continually looking at what we do. But one of the things the formula doesn’t account for is transfers. It is purely based on technical trades and related outcomes from that.

So it’s not assessing 40 percent of your student body? Is that a flaw?

I think there are a few colleges in the state that believe there need to be some modifications to account for that.

 

From wisopinion.com: “A vision for 21st century tech colleges” — By Rebecca Kleefisch – We should celebrate our sons and daughters who become nursing assistants and machinists just as much as those who become lawyers and doctors. That was my message this weekend at Waukesha County Technical College’s commencement ceremony, when hundreds of students walked across the stage and stepped into new careers and new opportunities.

Governor Walker said the same thing this past January in his State of the State address. He and I know that the twin drivers of our state’s economy are manufacturing and agriculture. Both of those industries rely heavily on technical colleges for expertise and employees. A strong Wisconsin economy needs strong tech colleges in every part of the state, staffed by top-notch teachers and filled with cutting-edge technology. Our tech colleges are a good investment for students, a good partner for employers, and a good value for taxpayers.

The students graduating from WCTC are entering into careers offering the promise of prosperity. An associate’s degree graduate in Aircraft Electronics can get jobs with a starting salary of $47,000. A one-year technical diploma in brick-laying and masonry leads to jobs with a median starting salary of almost $43,000. A dental hygiene grad starts with a salary just shy of $50,000. In fact, for the past 15 years, the tech colleges have placed at least 86 percent of their graduates into jobs within six months of graduation. In other words, tech colleges are equipping our workers with the skills they need to get the high-paying jobs they want and the economy offers.

One reason these jobs pay so well is because our Wisconsin employers are actively searching for employees with the skills and experience to fill jobs across our economy, especially in our agriculture, health care, and manufacturing sectors. It’s vitally important that technical colleges gear their services to the jobs available in their communities today and in the future. That’s why I was so impressed by the Fab Lab at Gateway Tech, for instance, which offers itself as a resource to students, faculty, and local manufacturers to try new ideas and products.

Tech colleges need to stay connected to both the community and to the state as a whole. The Governor’s Blueprint for Prosperity, which invested the state’s $911 million surplus, included $406 million in property tax relief through the tech colleges. At Madison Area Technical College, for instance, state funding jumped from 10 percent to nearly half of MATC’s budget. With the property tax caps in place, that will drop MATC’s local tax levy by almost half, saving the owner of an average Madison home about $200.

We need to continue investing in our technical colleges because of the crucial role they play in our communities and our economy. For instance, given all the technical advances discovered by our tech college staff and students, I’d like to see new programs that help commercialize these innovations as new products and processes for use in business.

My address at WCTC on Saturday was my 37th stop at a technical college since taking office. All those visits reflect the high priority that Governor Walker and I place on our tech colleges. Commencement provides each of us, as friends, family, and neighbors of the graduates, an opportunity to celebrate their accomplishments and to appreciate their new careers building a stronger Wisconsin.

From lacrossetribune.com: “Walker signs jail transfer, training bills” — Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed bills introduced by area legislators into law Wednesday.

Senate Bill 648, written in the Assembly by Rep. Jill Billings, D-La Crosse, will reduce jail expenses by allowing localities to transfer inmates to less expensive facilities in neighboring counties.

La Crosse County had identified Houston County, Minn., as a potential cost-saving destination, but state law previously barred such transfers. The new law allows transfers to neighboring counties, in or out of state, if the savings is 25 percent or greater.

Assembly Bill 226, co-written by Rep. Steve Doyle, D-Onalaska, allows more businesses to benefit from worker training partnerships with Wisconsin Technical College by expanding the eligibility for Workforce Advancement Training grants to businesses with up to 250 employees (up from 100). This bill also allows the Wisconsin Technical College System Board to award a grant to a district board to provide assistance with market expansion or business diversification.

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.

From journaltimes.com: “Gateway property taxes cut in half” — BURLINGTON — The property taxes local residents will pay for Gateway Technical College next year are to be cut in half thanks to an act of the Legislature passed this year, according to officials and Gateway’s proposed 2014-15 budget presented Thursday.

The total amount taxpayers are budgeted to pay next year for Gateway is $28.98 million, down from $60 million this year.

“Homeowners will see a reduction in their local property taxes which gives them the relief they are looking for and Gateway has been able to demonstrate good performance, so we’ll see an increase in the revenue streams to support ongoing training,” Gateway President Bryan Albrecht said following a budget presentation Thursday at the Gateway Technical College District Board meeting in the HERO Center, 380 McCanna Parkway, in Burlington.

Under Act 145, the property tax relief act passed this year, the state will pick up a large portion of what local property taxpayers usually pay for technical colleges throughout the state, explained Conor Smyth, a spokesman for the Wisconsin Technical College System. It doesn’t mean a new pool of money for technical colleges, he said. It means local taxpayers will pay less, while statewide taxpayer dollars, now part of the state surplus, will be more heavily relied upon.

The surplus is the result of holding down spending, Act 10 savings, and the growing economy, according to state Rep. Robin Vos, R-Rochester.

Change in state funding

Statewide, local property taxpayers used to pay 68 percent of the cost of technical colleges. That is now reduced to 33 percent, and the amount the state pays is going from 9 percent to 44 percent, Smyth said.

For Gateway, approximately $32 million is being moved from local property taxes to the state. That means about $83 in property tax relief for someone with a $100,000 home.

Vos, the Assembly speaker, said the biggest complaint he hears from constituents is about taxes and this provides relief, but state Rep. Cory Mason, R-Racine, said instead of simply swapping out property taxes more money should have gone to technical colleges for worker training, and he had proposed a bill that would have done that.

Mason said he voted against Act 145 not because he thinks the property tax cut is bad, but because technical college funding needs to be restored to prior levels.

“All the money they put into the technical college went to property tax relief, nothing from that bill went for job training or getting people back to work … If jobs really is the No. 1 issue, we should be investing in things that get people back to work.”

Albrecht said the college is getting additional state funding through a new performance-based calculation that rewards the school for doing well. The college has also applied for an additional $2.7 million through what is being called the Blue Print for Prosperity, according to Albrecht. That includes money for more boot camps, among other things.

Additional budget items

Overall, Gateway’s proposed total budget is down from $161.62 million to $156.76 million. Albrecht attributed that in part to Act 10, which essentially eliminated collective bargaining for public employees. It allowed Gateway to make changes to benefits such as retirement and health insurance, he said. Also he said over the last three years there were approximately 85 retirements, which contributed to the college’s savings because employees who had been with Gateway used to receive longevity pay based on the number of years they were with the college. Now he said instead of budgeting for longevity pay, they have funds budgeted for merit-based pay increases.

“We certainly want to be an employer of choice and recognize employees for the great work they are doing,” Albrecht said.

From weau.com: “Tax cuts could change tech school funding” — A proposed tax cut could affect the way area technical colleges are funded.

Earlier this week, the state senate approved Governor Scott Walker’s plan to use the state surplus to cover $504-million in tax cuts.

Under the changes technical colleges would get more than $400-million from the state’s budget surplus- meaning homeowners would pay less toward funding schools like Chippewa Valley Technical College.

“From our point of view as a system it really brings us some balance in the system in terms of where our funds come from,” Wisconsin Technical College System President Morna Foy said.

Foy says the changes to buy down homeowners property taxes using the state’s surplus would mean more balance when it comes to funding schools.

“With this change happening in 2015 we would go back we would have greater balance state aid would account for 45-percent of our operating costs as opposed to 10-percent,” Foy explained.

What the cuts would mean for the average home owner and tax payers is more money in their pocket.

“For a typical working family in the state it means their property taxes will be down more than 100 dollars and it means there withholding the amount they see in their paycheck will actually go up by over 500 dollars through the end of the year,” Governor Scott Walker said.

Governor Walker says in addition to the shift in funding due to the budget surplus, the state will also give a one-time payment of $35-million to technical colleges to help cut down on the amount of time it takes to enroll in classes.

“There was $35-million available in the Wisconsin Economic Development budget and we shifted that into helping our technical colleges buying down our wait list,” Walker said.

Despite the increased money to technical colleges, area Democrats say it still doesn’t make up for the deep cuts that were made in the past year.

“It doesn’t address a few things. The first is it doesn’t address the fact that there was $72-million cut last year,” State Representative Dana Wachs said.

The tax cut bill now heads to the state assembly for a vote on March 18th. If approved it would head to the governor’s desk for his signature.

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