TORKELSON'S COMP.-- $168,641
Salary -- $137,937; Benefits -- $30,704
(2nd highest paid of state's 424 administrators)
ACT AND DPI SCORES -- 16.6 & 61.9
(Lowest of 21 Northern WI schools)
MERCER $25,281
Wisconsin $12,842

National $10,667

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Mercer Taxpayers Rebel

If the reaction of the crowd at a September 27 public hearing was any indication, then an apparent plan to plunge the Mercer School District $6 million in debt and sock taxpayers with an annual tax increase of $63 per $100,000 assessed property valuation appeared DOA (dead on arrival).
Not one person spoke in favor of the scheme and practically everyone favored paying for the proposed allegedly needed schools repairs on a priority basis and out of regular school tax revenues. Even Town Chairman John Sendra raised some concerns.
At the June School Board meeting, representatives of McKinstry Co., an engineering and consulting firm hired by the school to perform an audit of the physical plant, detailed what they said were the needed repairs: roof replacement, lighting and electrical improvements, mechanical upgrades, including a new boiler, and window and door replacements. At the September meeting, they prioritized the need for the repairs on the basis of “immediate (2017), high (2018) and medium (3 to 5 years).”
Paying for all of the repairs at once would require taxpayer approval of a $3,980,000 tax increase referendum, which would increase school taxes for 20 years.  (With interest costs of an additional $1,978.384, the debt would total $5,958,384.)  From the reaction of the crowd, such approval is not likely to happen.
In using $63 per $100,000 as an example, which was used in the presentation, Town Chairman John Sendra said there was a need to be “more realistic” about what it would actually cost taxpayers.  Many lake properties are valued at $400,000 and $500,000, according to Sendra. 
Sendra’s “realistic” scenario might look like this:
Property Value          Annual Tax Impact         20-Year Total Tax Impact                 

$200,000                     $126                                  $2,520
$300,000                     $189                                  $3,780 
$400,000                     $252                                  $5,040
$500,000                     $315                                  $6,300        

School Board Member Christa Reinert, a strong advocate of paying for the repairs on a priority basis and from regular tax revenues, suggested using the School District’s $1 million fund balance “to pay for some of the proposed improvements on an on-going basis, rather than borrowing for a 20-year term.” Reinert was applauded, and all other speakers agreed with her proposals.
One resident said: “I think it’s time for some fiscal responsibility.  We’ve got a system where we’re spending money like drunk sailors, and maybe we need to sit down and set priorities.  Any school district can only supply so much, and I think that we’ve been taxed to the limit.”
A major concern about incurring such a huge $6 million debt would be that it would close the door on any possible consolidation of the Mercer school with another school district, a matter which is being widely discussed in Mercer.  The point has been made that by consolidating, and sending at least the high school students to another school, would save the taxpayers money and provide a better education for the students  (See MSF 10/8/17 More Bad…ACT News, and 9/29/17 Mercer ACT Scores Plummet)
Several astute Mercer residents said that the real purpose of saddling taxpayers with such a ridiculously high $6 million debt would be to prevent consolidation.  Any acquiring school district would have to pay off the debt in one payment, and this would be totally unrealistic.
When the improvement project was originally presented several months ago, the possibility existed of imposing the tax burden without a referendum under the guise that the projects were for energy-saving purposes.  Wisconsin ACT 32, which would have allowed that, expired in September without renewal. 
Another concern raised at the September 27 hearing was that a referendum vote might be sneaked pass taxpayers by holding the election in February when many Mercer residents are away to warmer climates.  It was pointed out at the hearing that this was done in February, 2013, when those voters still in Mercer approved what they were lied to and told would be an $11 per $100,000 assessed property valuation but actually resulted in $137.  And that tax increase is FOREVER.
Naturally, the referendum is being scheduled for February 20, when many snowbirds “fly” south for the winter.  So those snowbirds have a decision to make: Get an absentee ballot and vote NO or be prepared to come home and pay more exorbitant school taxes. 


Anonymous said...

All you "snowbirds" either get an absentee ballot or get together and change the voting date! Nothing is impossible!

Anonymous said...

Christa Reinert seems to be the only school board member looking out for the taxpayers and the students. The other school board members are preoccupied in looking out for the welfare of our grossly overpaid and overrated administrator.

Anonymous said...

That sure is a lot of money for such poor results.

Anonymous said...

As town chairman, Sendra must really be concerned about what ANOTHER big school tax increase will do to the town. It will discourage people from buying property here and certainly prevent new businesses from locating in Mercer. It will also encourage people to move away, although it will make it difficult for them to sell their property.

Anonymous said...

Too bad that one SB member, a realtor, doesn’t realize this.