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.

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.

From chippewa.com: “Walker’s plan would overhaul tech school funding” — Western Wisconsin property taxpayers would save about $15 million under tax cuts proposed by Gov. Scott Walker.

Money from the state’s expected surplus would offset taxes levied by Western Technical College, benefiting homes and businesses in Western’s 11-county district.

But Walker’s proposal is more than a money dump. It would also transform funding methods for Wisconsin’s technical colleges.

Western’s top official lauded the plan but wondered about the future.

“Essentially, it’s shifting the balance,” Western president Lee Rasch said. “If this plan is going to help reduce the impact on property tax, it’s really a wonderful thing.”

The governor’s plan would inject state funding into Wisconsin’s network of tech colleges in 2015 to ease the burden on local taxpayers. The average homeowner would save $89 per $100,000 of property value in Western’s district, which includes La Crosse County.

It’s a savings from this year’s rate, but it’s also lower than taxes were before voters passed an $80 million bonding referendum in 2012, Rasch said. Western’s total levy this year, not including debt, was just more than $25 million. Walker’s plan would cut that to $10.3 million.

“That’s a pretty significant drop,” Rasch said.

Western’s ability to tax property owners would be reduced from $1.50 to 61 cents per $1,000 of property value.

Western and other technical colleges would switch to a K-12-style of financing, Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance President Todd Berry said. The governor’s proposal would link technical college levies to state aid and impose a cap on all revenue.

Like public schools, low property taxes would depend on continued support from the state. Walker spokesman Tom Evenson said the 2015 aid increase “will repeat in future years.”

“This is not one-time money,” Evenson said.

However, if state aid does dip, property taxes increase.

“That puts a new pressure on the state budget that hadn’t existed before,” Berry said.

Last year, Republican lawmakers recommended removing Wisconsin’s technical colleges from property tax bills.

At the time, Rasch criticized the proposal as a threat to local control. Walker’s proposal is “a good plan,” as long as local campuses still have the flexibility to develop courses and react to regional employment trends, Rasch said.

Walker also wants $35 million extra for training skilled workers. The program that would benefit is managed by the Department of Workforce Development, but some of the new funding would be channeled to technical colleges.

Money would go to eliminating wait-lists for high-demand courses and dual-credit programs, so tech schools could offer more college-level classes at nearby high schools.

Western officials are already considering ways to take advantage of the proposed funding, Rasch said. The college has wait-lists for welding, information technology and health care classes.

“We’re watching it closely,” Rasch said.

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