Preach it, Brother...
West Bend Daily News/Owen Robinson:
The citizens of West Bend have learned a lot about their school district leadership in this latest budget discussion, and many of the lessons are troubling.
Difficult times call for leadership and the School Board failed to show the leadership that the community needed. Instead, it took the easy route and decided to tax to the max.
What is frustrating in this case is that the public did everything right and the School Board still rammed through the maximum tax increase possible. In September the School Board held its annual meeting as required by law. At the time members were advancing a budget proposal that would have levied the maximum tax increase allowed by law. The purpose of the public meeting is for the public to show up, listen to the proposal, and tell their elected School Board members whether or not they support the board's proposal. This year, more than 700 citizens attended the meeting, which is telling considering that the meeting is usually a non-event attended by a few dozen folks.
The vote against the levy increase was overwhelming. The vote was only advisory, but the citizens of the district made it perfectly clear to the School Board that they needed to sharpen their pencils, show some leadership, and manage their way through the current economic circumstances without breaking the backs of the taxpayers. The School Board utterly ignored the voters and unanimously decided to increase the levy as much as possible.
Beyond that, the district has not been forthcoming with information for the public. The public meeting was officially announced in the legal notices of the newspaper, but School Board President Joe Carlson readily admits that the district did not contact the press to make sure the public was aware of the massive tax increase being proposed until after some bloggers and talk radio exposed the proposal.
In the end, what have we learned about our School Board?
First, members ignore the voters. Despite the overwhelming vote at the yearly meeting, School Board members chose to do exactly what the voters told them not to do.
Second, the School Board and the district's administration, whether through incompetence or malfeasance, do not readily give information to the public outside of their public relations channels.
Third, in this case the citizens did everything right to tell their elected School Board members that the citizens of the district can't afford a tax increase of this magnitude at this time and every member of the School Board gave the voters the ol' one-finger salute. The taxpayers don't currently have a representative on the School Board and the time to fix that will be in April.