SOURCE: Marketplace Magazine - Steve Prestegard
The winner of the Euphemisms of the Month Award is the Ripon Area School District, where my three children go to school:
The Ripon Board of Education voted at its special meeting on October 26 to invest in education and preserve the quality of Ripon schools by increasing local property taxes to fill the gap left by the state’s reduction in state aid for the 2009-10 school year.
The punch line for us Ripon Area School District residents is buried in the next paragraph:
As a result of the decrease in state aid, the percent that property taxes will be raised is more than double the amount than if the percent of the budget covered by state aid had remained the same as last year. The 12.31% increase in the tax levy translates to an increase of the equalized mill rate of $1.18 per thousand dollars of equalized property value from last year’s equalized mill rate of $9.20. The owner of a property with an equalized value of $100,000 will pay $118 more this year in school taxes as the equalized mill rate rises to $10.38 for the 2009–10 budget.
I find this next paragraph interesting given that Gov. James Doyle and Democrats are bought and paid for by teacher unions:
“The governor and Democratic-led state legislature reneged on their promise to fund two thirds of school costs and left local school boards with no way to fulfill their responsibility to operate quality schools except to raise property taxes,” explained Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman. “The people we elected to govern our state broke their promises and shifted school costs to local property taxes where the school boards would be blamed rather than the governor and state legislators who caused the problem. Those politicians broke promises to communities and put the future of our children in harm’s way because they refused to make the tough choices in Madison. Why should this year’s children receive less of an education than last year’s children just because our politicians don’t want to stand by their commitments?”
That was not part of the $2 billion in tax increases the Legislature passed and Gov. Doyle, the teacher unions’ good friend, foisted on us earlier this year. Because of the Legislature’s refusal to cut government, the owner of the $100,000 house in Ripon will pay an additional $118 for schools, an additional $20 for Fond du Lac County government, and an additional $14 for city services. Mil rates for Moraine Park Technical College and the state haven’t been determined yet, but take a wild guess which direction those rates will go.
This also does not include what’s likely to happen in the future with the demise of the Qualified Economic Offer, which kept automatic teacher pay increases somewhat in line with reality. Beginning with the next teacher contract negotiations, the sky will be the limit. (And the Ripon school district has had a particularly fractious history with its teacher union in the past.)
Ripon is, I suspect, not much different from other school districts in Wisconsin. (Except, perhaps, for the fact that the installation of artificial grass at the school district’s football field two football seasons ago is still being bitterly argued, though not enough to compel school district critics to run for office.) Finding a school district that does not raise its 2009–10 property taxes will be as rare as a nice day in the Wisconsin “summer” of 2009.
Schools in Wisconsin (with one major and perhaps other smaller exceptions) are better than in most other states, but they certainly are not world-class, proven by worldwide comparisons of math and science test scores. Such happy talk as “We invest in learning today for our tomorrow” is half-reality (the first part) and half-blue sky. One definition of “blue sky,” as a business appraiser might say, is “unrealistic and, as intangible assets, cannot be readily valued.” Another is “based on the income that they produce.” (Wisconsin’s per capita income, by the way, is about $2,500 less than the national average.)
Zimman’s right about one thing: The Legislature did indeed “refuse to make the tough choices in Madison.” One example is the $86 million per year the Department of Natural Resources plans to spend on land purchases for the next decade. The Legislature chose that spending over $150 million in school aids, which, as we see, directly affects the biggest chunk of our property tax bills.
Another example that Zimman didn’t mention is the fact that the Ripon Area School District is one of this state’s 427 school districts, and the school district is one of this state’s 3,120 units of government. School district administrators are very well paid, and naturally are the highest paid employees of school districts. If we had fewer school districts, school district taxpayers would be paying fewer six-digit administrator salaries, as well as fewer salaries for specialists, directors, coordinators and so on. (I wrote that for all those who get in high dudgeon over CEO salaries, which are paid by the revenues of their companies, not by tax dollars.) The same could be written for the municipalities of this state: 72 counties, 190 cities, 402 villages and 1,259 towns. (Here’s one example of what could be done.)
The Legislature failed to create a mechanism to force this state’s really small school districts (several of which are near where I live, as well as where I have lived before) to realize the economies of scale of somewhat larger school districts. The Legislature also failed to give school districts any leeway with teacher benefit costs, but teachers are apparently about to realize that their benefits come with a cost. And, as always, the Legislature continues to bless us with an abundance of government spending (and thus taxes) while we suffer from a scarcity of income.
Of course, this news release/commentary plays the “it’s-for-the-children” card first perfected by the Clinton Administration. Education is a constitutional responsibility of state government. It is not the only thing government is responsible for, however. Families across the state have had to make difficult decisions on not spending money in certain areas because of the current economy, and it is unreasonable to not expect government to do the same.
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
SOURCE: Marketplace Magazine - Steve Prestegard
Posted by Aaron Kramer at 11/04/2009 02:14:00 PM
Monday, November 2, 2009
I am honored to be part of the Ripon College accreditation program this fall. The college goes through re-accreditation every ten years, with one of the main benefits being that accredited colleges are eiligible to participate in federal student loan programs. I will join a number of community members late Tuesday afternoon, meeting with the four members of the accreditation board, who come to Ripon from across the nation. The college has made its accreditation application public, as well as information on the entire process. That can be found here.
One of the factors for accreditation is community involvement. As mayor, I will be asked to expand upon the internal findings of the college. The public, as well, can send comments to the committee via the college. The college's internal report, to the best of my knowledge and experience, appears to accurately reflect the current state of town-gown relations:
Engagement with the Local Community: The City of Ripon and Ripon College are historically linked to the utopian movements of the 19th century United States. Indeed, two of the College’s founders, David P. Mapes and Warren Chase, who had competing interests in the land that now comprises the city, agreed that a college would “attract responsible settlers to the area.” Ripon College occupies the highest hill in the city, but the towngown relationship is synergistic rather than competitive and is remarkably, though not completely, free of conflict.
Access to events is one of the main benefits that city and area residents experience by having a liberal arts college in the town. With a few exceptions, events on the campus are open to the public. These include poetry readings, art exhibits, plays, concerts, sports events, speakers, and the annual Ethical Leadership Conference. Advertisements, the College web site, posters, and press releases publicize events, and audiences generally include people within a forty mile radius of the campus. One measure of the importance of these events to the local community is participation of many community members in groups that have recently been formed to show support for events, renovation, programing and student scholarships. Friends of Ripon Athletics, Friends of Lane Library, and Friends of the Fine Arts provide opportunities for like-minded individuals to gather on campus, get to know students, faculty, staff, and each other, while supporting something of personal meaning and interest. During the most recent fiscal year (2009), individuals in the three groups gave $7,432 in current gifts and added $14,200 to the two “Friends” endowments supporting Lane Library and fine arts programs in music, theatre, and the visual arts. The combined value of those endowments is now over $98,000.
Motor Vehicle Policy: Student parking and street closings have been the sources of some town-gown tensions in recent years. An increase in the number of students at the College coupled with a lack of bus or rail access to the campus led to an increase in overnight student parking on the residential streets adjacent to the campus. College authorities moved to increase and regulate parking and to encourage the use of bicycles on campus. The City of Ripon posted signs limiting overnight parking near the campus for most of the academic year. Some of this debate occurred in the town and college newspapers and in city council meetings before the actions listed above were taken. Similarly, public debate about the street closings that have created the pedestrian mall on upper campus was carried out over several months in various planning and governmental meetings, as well as in the Ripon Commonwealth Press and on the local radio station. The final approval of the pedestrian mall project did not satisfy everyone, but did involve compromises to address public concerns about access to the city cemetery and the availability of short term and handicapped parking near Harwood Union and Pickard Commons. Overall, tensions between the campus and the community have been significantly reduced in recent years as the College has enforced its on-campus residency policy, significantly reducing the number of students living in rental properties in the City of Ripon.
Movement of the College’s executive offices into the historic Carnegie Library building was, as mentioned earlier, a symbolic demonstration of the ties between the College and the City of Ripon. Revitalization efforts in the downtown area have been slowed by the national economic recession, but the College maintains a vital interest in that project because the downtown area is adjacent to the eastern edge of the campus. Access to local businesses is crucial to student satisfaction with their on-campus living experience. An active business community not only provides shopping and entertainment options for students but also opportunities for internships and job shadowing. As an example of the synergistic relationship of the city and the College, the college’s Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) team 1) consulted with the downtown revitalization effort, and 2) translated the city calendar into Spanish as two of its competition projects during the 2007-2008 academic year.
Kemper Foundation Grant Proposal, 2009: The Creative Enterprise Center, initiated during the 2006-2007 academic year, and now located in the Carnegie Building is an umbrella organization that includes the SIFE team and staff who broker connections between community enterprises and student consultants. Funded by a grant from the James S. Kemper Foundation, the CEC “serves local community members and entrepreneurs as a resource for the creation of feasible and sustainable enterprises.” The CEC and SIFE have already worked with community members to develop plans for eleven enterprises ranging from selling bags made by Jamaican women as part of the Blue Mountain Project in Hagley Gap to rehabilitation of a downtown building to house a woodworking company. CEC collaborations provide students with valuable business planning experience and contribute to the ongoing partnership between the College and the City of Ripon to improve the quality of life for all Ripon residents.
Matriculation Convocation Programs, 2008, 2009 :Each year, the mayor of Ripon welcomes new students to the community at the Matriculation Convocation, and local churches put on a pot luck dinner for students during the first week of classes. Students, faculty, and staff are a driving force in the local economy, and college programs enrich the community culture. Although not without tensions, the town-gown relationship is positive and strong, and the College’s engagement with the community has been strengthened by the increased emphasis on community service as an element of liberal education at Ripon College.
Posted by Aaron Kramer at 11/02/2009 02:09:00 PM
SOURCE: Fond du Lac Reporter
RIPON — A panel of local government officials will gather in Ripon on Monday, November 9, to discuss current issues that affect residents and business owners. The event will kick off at noon at Royal Ridges. Panelists are Ripon Mayor Aaron Kramer, City Administrator Steve Barg, Fond du Lac County Executive Allen Buechel and Ripon Area School District Superintendent Richard Zimman. Cost of the lunch buffet is $7. Those wishing to attend are asked to contact the Ripon Chamber of Commerce office at (920) 748-6764 by noon on Friday, Nov. 6, to make a reservation. The Chamber is partnering with the Ripon Rotary Club and League of Women Voters of the Ripon Area to host the event.
Posted by Aaron Kramer at 11/02/2009 10:45:00 AM
The leadership of Al Qaeda is in Pakistan, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Thursday. “I find it hard to believe that nobody in your government knows where they are and couldn’t get them if they really wanted to,” she added. “Maybe that’s the case; maybe they’re not gettable. I don’t know... As far as we know, they are in Pakistan,” Clinton told senior Pakistani newspaper editors in Lahore, AFP reported. “The percentage of taxes on GDP (in Pakistan) is among the lowest in the world... We (the United States) tax everything that moves and doesn’t move, and that’s not what we see in Pakistan,” she said.
Posted by Aaron Kramer at 11/02/2009 01:07:00 AM
SOURCE: Fond du Lac Reporter
RIPON — Ripon College's fall play, "Fuente Ovejuna," will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 4 to 7 in the Benstead Theatre, Rodman Center for the Arts. Due to subject matter and language, the show — which will be presented in English — is intended for mature audiences.
The production features a cast of 21 students and a backstage crew of 12. All tickets for the show are free, though reservations (920-748-8791) are recommended. A special South America-themed menu and wine selection will be offered during its dinner hours for the entirety of the show's run. Patrons may order a four-course, prix fixe meal (soup, appetizer, choice of two entrees, dessert) for $32, or selections a la carte. Dinner service begins at 5 p.m. each night. Twenty percent of the proceeds will be donated to Ripon College Friends of the Arts. Written in 1612 by Shakespeare's Spanish contemporary Lope de Vega, "Fuente Ovejuna" is a classic tale of tyranny and triumph. The title is the name of a small town in Spain where, in 1476, a group of villages rose up against a cruel and vicious tyrant, took over their town, and restored their honor.
Like Shakespeare's plays, this has a number of short scenes and mixes comedy and serious drama as well as music and dance. "We have used a modern English adaptation of this play and updated the setting," said Director Ken Hill in a news release. "The production opens in contemporary Colombia during a workers' strike where the citizens of the town retell the story of Fuente Ovejuna using modern music ranging from salsa to Shakira, and using modern props and costumes."
Posted by Aaron Kramer at 11/02/2009 12:59:00 AM
SOURCE: Ripon College
Dear Ripon College Alumni, Faculty, Staff and Students,
As you may be aware, the Ripon College Board of Trustees has approved the recommendation made by college administrators to take Merriman House – longtime home of the Phi Kappa Pi Fraternity – off-line effective May 2010. This decision has understandably struck a dissonant chord with many of you, so I would like to clarify the facts of the matter and respond to some of the common questions that have arisen.
First, a brief history: Merriman House was constructed in 1939 and opened in 1940. While the College has always owned the building, the Merriman Club financed the construction of the building and was responsible for its maintenance. In 1988, another agreement was reached between Merriman Club and Ripon College, superseding the original agreement. This placed the responsibility for maintenance of Merriman House with the College.
While maintenance projects have been completed during the past 69 years, no major
renovations were undertaken. Eventually the need for major repairs and maintenance developed to the point where Merriman no longer meets the standards of a Ripon College residence hall. In deference to the standards of a Ripon education – of which residence life is an inextricable part – we have made the decision to move the Phi Kappa Pi fraternity out of Merriman and into another residence hall.
This decision was not reached lightly. Merriman’s longtime status as a social nexus is acknowledged by all, as is its place in Ripon College history. Some say that Merriman IS Phi Kappa Pi and vice-versa, implying that to take the building off-line is tantamount to taking the fraternity off-line. That is not the case. Furthermore, no decision has been made as to the ultimate fate of Merriman House. Until that time, it will simply be left unoccupied.
I respect the importance of Merriman and its place in some people’s memories of Ripon College. We will be looking for long-term solutions and weighing our options, and hope that we can sustain a positive dialogue during that process.
A brief FAQ follows for any questions/concerns not addressed here. Thank you for your time.
David C. Joyce
* Is the condition of Merriman House really that bad? - It is unfit to house the students of a reputable institution.
* Why didn’t the college and/or the fraternity address the deferred-maintenance issues that led to its unusable condition? Who’s to blame? - At some point in the building’s history, the cost of necessary renovations surpassed its fair share of maintenance resources. In other words, to make the necessary repairs to Merriman would have required a disproportionate amount of the funds set aside for deferred maintenance on other, much older campus buildings that are used by all. While deferring too many small repairs for too long may have led to this situation, it falls on us to contend with the results of those decisions. It is not useful to assign blame.
* Why wasn’t a portion of the $20M bond issue used to fully renovate Merriman? - The price tag to renovate the building fully exceeds $1.5M, more than the fair market value of the entire property. Dozens of other deferred maintenance projects existed that were no less pressing, and affected buildings used by the entire student body.
* Was there a dedicated fundraising effort to raise money for Merriman? - Yes. A fundraising effort for building renovations fell far short of its goal.
* Why are you singling out Phi Kappa Pi fraternity? - This decision has nothing to do with the fraternity or its members, nor does it represent any ill will. In our judgment, it is best to vacate the building.
* What is likely to happen to Merriman House going forward? - All we know for certain is that the building must be vacated until we determine the best way to proceed.
Posted by Aaron Kramer at 11/02/2009 12:53:00 AM
SOURCE: Ripon College
RIPON, Wis. – At 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 12 the applied communication class of Ripon College will present the third annual Man Pageant, sponsored by Golden Rule Community Credit Union. All proceeds benefit the Huntington’s Disease Society of America (HDSA). The event will take place in the Great Hall of Harwood Memorial Union. Tickets are $2 in advance and $3 at the door.
During this evening of entertainment, men from Ripon College and the community competing for the title of “Mr. Ripon.” Contestants will compete in several categories, including talent, formalwear, swimwear, and knowledge of Huntington’s.
The communication department began working with HDSA more than five years ago when they learned about the organization from a former student.
“We started being involved with HDSA because it had some project needs that applied communication students could fill – hands-on learning projects,” explains Jody Roy, professor of communication at Ripon. “Four years ago, applied created a host of fundraising alternatives for HDSA, stratified for different audiences and areas. As a follow-up to that, HDSA Great Lakes Region asked the class to pilot an awareness-builder and fundraiser that would target college students.”
The result was the creation of the man-pageant concept by the applied class of fall 2007. The first event raised $1,300 for HDSA. In 2008, the applied class later expanded on the idea and created a user guide that enables HDSA to support any college group that would want to sponsor the event on another campus. That year’s event raised $3,700 for HDSA.
Each year, Professor Roy creates a new goal for the new applied communication class. This year, the students are faced with the challenge of raising $3,500 in the current economic climate, increasing Ripon community involvement, and getting 100 community members to attend. For the first time, Ripon community members will be contestants in the pageant. Fundraising efforts were expanded to include business sponsors in Green Lake, Fond du Lac and Oshkosh, and this year the contestants themselves will raise money for the event. Also, three judges and contestant escort positions will be auctioned off. The applied communication class has participated in community events like Septemberfest and will be stationed at Pick ‘n Save on Nov. 7 along with 90.1 WRPN-FM, the college radio station, to promote the event and raise awareness for its cause.
For general information please contact Katie Mead at firstname.lastname@example.org. For further information about Huntington’s Disease and how you can help in other ways, please go to www.hdsa.org.
About Huntington’s Disease and the HDSA
Huntington’s Disease is a devastating illness that most often affects people between the ages of 30 and 45. Symptoms of Huntington’s Disease fall into three major categories: loss of motor skills, altered personality and changes in cognitive function. This disease currently has no effective treatment or cure. However, with the help of HDSA’s continued research, a solution to this devastating illness may be found. Progress towards finding a cure to Huntington’s Disease may also aid in finding more effective treatments to related diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimer’s and Lou Gehrig's Disease.
The HDSA is a nonprofit organization that offers assistance to families suffering from Huntington’s Disease, provides education about the illness, and contributes to research for a cure. This organization greatly impacts the lives of the 30,000 Americans that are afflicted with the disease, and the 250,000 who are genetically “at risk” to inherit Huntington’s Disease.
Casual Living Outfitters
Golden Rule Community Credit Union
Watson Street Wear
Pick 'n Save
Posted by Aaron Kramer at 11/02/2009 12:52:00 AM
Saturday, October 31, 2009
Alderman Gib Stoeberl turned in a "Notification of Noncandidacy" form Friday morning, meaning he won't be a candidate for Council from District 3 this coming April. As a former student of Gib's, I have known him for many years, and his wisdom, patience and leadership will be missed on the Council. I know that he wanted to see the Boca Grande agreement and the building of a new fire station come to pass, and he was able to see both.
* Jeremy Custer, a Ripon College student, filed his completed Campaign Registration Statement and Declaration for Candidacy for the office of Mayor.
* Up for re-election in April: myself, Deano Pape, Joel Brockman, and Al Schraeder. None of us have made a formal announcement or decision.
Posted by Aaron Kramer at 10/31/2009 11:02:00 AM
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Two 16-year-old Ripon Males have been arrested and will be referred to Fond du Lac County Juvenile authorities in connection with the Graffitti Vandalism spree that took place in Ripon. Police Chief Dave Lukoski says the vandalism happened at four different locations over the weekend. They were Ingalls Field, the Union Hall on Scott Street, Barlow Park, and Schmitt Lumber. According to incident reports filed with the police, the graffiti consisted of the words “BASE”, “FUSE”, “NWS”, and “ASK”, and a picture of a three-point crown. The reports indicate the graffiti was the same at all four locations. Lukoski says it has not been determined yet if the vandalism is gang related, but it does look the part. Lukoski says this vandalism is not related to previous vandalism in the city earlier this year. As for estimated damage, Lukoski says none of the building owners have come forward with that information yet.
Posted by Aaron Kramer at 10/29/2009 11:06:00 AM
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
SOURCE: Ripon Commonwealth-Press
Ripon Mayor Aaron Kramer says he may be going Trick-or-Treating as The Invisible Man this year. Even after issuing an order to move Ripon's Trick-or-Treating up one day - from Sunday to Saturday - he still can't please everyone. With the change, the annual sugar festival will take place on Halloween Day, and it no longer conflicts with Sunday's Packer-Viking game. The hours remain the same: 3 to 5 p.m. Still, Kramer hears rumblings of dissent.
"Right now it's running 50-50," he said Monday, hours after the decision was announced. "Some people think it's the greatest thing since sliced bread. Others think I'm the most evil mayor in Ripon history." Many Packer fans in Ripon breathed a sigh of relief when Ripon city leaders announced the Trick-or-Treat event would be moved up a day. This means costumed candy-lovers won't compete with the game to end all games: Green Bay Packers taking on Brett Favre at Lambeau Field, with kickoff at 3:15 p.m. Kramer said his reasoning was twofold: the game, and also because he's a traditionalist. "It should have been the 31st from the start," he said.
The new date puts Ripon's Trick-or-Treating on the same day as other local communities, which had planned for Saturday (Halloween Day) all along. When Ripon set the original Nov. 1 date for this year's Trick-or-Treat, the Packer-Viking game was scheduled for noon, meaning the game would have been over a good hour before the ending of Trick-or-Treat, allowing people to enjoy both. "I've been told that Ripon traditionally holds theirs on the Sunday nearest to Halloween, and it goes back to the 1970s ... That was the rationale I was told," Kramer said. But then the game time was moved to 3:15 p.m. - which placed it right in the middle of Trick-or-Treating. This created quite the buzz.
Now that the Trick-or-Treating has been moved to Saturday, it's still a catch-22, Kramer said. That's because although the Packer game is no longer a concern, some residents have other conflicts with Saturday, such as a possible Ripon Tiger football playoff game. "I have more people contacting me about Trick-or-Treating than Boca Grande, or the city budget, or rising taxes. It's frightening," Kramer said. "It's Trick-or-Treating. It's not like I moved Christmas," he added.
Posted by Aaron Kramer at 10/28/2009 05:53:00 PM
Board Votes to Preserve Quality and Protect Budget from More State Cuts
The Ripon Board of Education voted at its special meeting on October 26 to invest in education and preserve the quality of Ripon schools by increasing local property taxes to fill the gap left by the state’s reduction in state aid for the 2009-10 school year. The District has been required to cut annual operating expenses by $1.2 million in the past three years as a result of the revenue limits placed on school districts by the state. At the same time the percentage of Ripon’s school budget supported by state funds has fallen by 9% that has caused school costs to be shifted onto local property tax bills. Faced with even deeper cuts that would be matched by the state next year with even more state aid reductions, the Ripon school board voted a 12.31% increase in the tax levy to preserve the District’s programs and protect the budget from the loss of more state aid next year. The tax levy increase translates into rise in the equalized mill rate of $1.18 per thousand dollars of equalized property value. The owner of a property with an equalized value of $100,000 will pay $118 more this year in school taxes as the equalized mill rate moves to $10.38 for the 2009-10 budget. The actual amount of the mill rates on local tax bills will vary based on local property values in the eleven municipalities that comprise the school district. Because those municipalities had changes in property values ranging from a 4% decrease to a 15% increase, the effect on local property tax bills will vary considerably.
Board Accepts Gift of New Ingalls Field Team Room
The Ingalls Field Community Volunteers group is donating a new team room and storage building to the District with construction planned for the spring of 2010. The school board accepted the gift at its October 26 meeting with the understanding that no budget or taxpayer dollars will be used for building the new facility. In addition to providing shelter for RHS and Ripon College home teams during athletic events, the new building will also be used for storage during the winter and will contain women’s public restrooms during Ingalls Field events. Current restroom facilities for women are inadequate for the large crowds now coming to Ingalls Field. The new building will be located diagonally across St. Wenceslaus Street from the Ingalls Field main gate in the lot now occupied by the Voysey barn and garage adjacent to the Ripon Middle School lot. The Ingalls Field Community Volunteers will demolish the barn and garage at no cost to the District or taxpayers in order to make room for the new team room building.
District Now on Facebook
The Ripon Area School District now has a Facebook page where updates and information are available to residents using that social networking site. The new presence on Facebook is part of the outreach effort by the District to provide information and a place for feedback to parents and community members. Facebook is free to all Internet users, and there is no cost to the District for its page. Friends of the District’s page receive regular updates.
Posted by Aaron Kramer at 10/28/2009 11:09:00 AM
School Board Votes to Invest in the Education of Ripon Children by Filling the Gap Left by State Aid Cuts
SOURCE: Ripon Area School District
The Ripon Board of Education voted at its special meeting on October 26 to invest in education and preserve the quality of Ripon schools by increasing local property taxes to fill the gap left by the state’s reduction in state aid for the 2009-10 school year. The amount of the school budget supported by state funds has fallen by 9% during the past three years as the Governor and legislature have retreated from their promise of two-thirds funding. The gap created by this withdrawal of state aid has been shifted to local taxpayers through the school district’s property tax.
As a result of the decrease in state aid, the percent that property taxes will be raised is more than double the amount than if the percent of the budget covered by state aid had remained the same as last year. The 12.31% increase in the tax levy translates to an increase of the equalized mill rate of $1.18 per thousand dollars of equalized property value from last year’s equalized mill rate of $9.20. The owner of a property with an equalized value of $100,000 will pay $118 more this year in school taxes as the equalized mill rate rises to $10.38 for the 2009-10 budget.
The actual amount of the mill rates on local tax bills will vary based on local property values in the eleven municipalities that comprise the school district. Because those municipalities had changes in property values ranging from a 4% decrease to a 15% increase, the effect on local property tax bills will vary considerably.
In the past three years the school district has had to reduce its operating budget by a total of $1.2 million dollars in annual expenditures to stay within the revenue limits mandated by the state. At the same time the state decreased its share of the local school budget by 9%. State support has dropped from 78% of Ripon’s revenue limit budget to 69% in the past three years. Consequently, as the state shifted costs for schools to the local property tax the equalized mill rate for local property taxes has increased.
“The governor and Democratic-led state legislature reneged on their promise to fund two-thirds of school costs and left local school boards with no way to fulfill their responsibility to operate quality schools except to raise property taxes,” explained Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman. “The people we elected to govern our state broke their promises and shifted school costs to local property taxes where the school boards would be blamed rather than the governor and state legislators who caused the problem. Those politicians broke promises to communities and put the future of our children in harm’s way because they refused to make the tough choices in Madison. Why should this year’s children receive less of an education than last year’s children just because our politicians don’t want to stand by their commitments?”
Although the calculation of the 2009-10 school district budget and tax levy is now over, the work on the 2010-11 budget is just beginning. Preliminary forecasts show Ripon will need another major budget cut to stay within state-mandated revenue limits, and the percent of the budget supported by state aid will likely continue to be reduced. Ripon’s Budget Planning Team is expected to give its first report to the school board on the 2010-11 budget at its November 16 meeting.
Posted by Aaron Kramer at 10/28/2009 09:32:00 AM
Today, at the direction of the Ripon Common Council, I, and City Administrator Steve Barg, signed a development agreement with the investment firm of Boca Grande. The agreement comes after several months of discussions and negotiations. Boca Grande has proposed a $30 million redevelopment of downtown Ripon, to be highlighted by an inn and spa, several new storefronts and restaurants, and a Republican Presidential Museum. Construction is set to begin shortly and run through 2013.
There has been a delay in the actual signing of the document over the past several weeks in order to finalize several pieces of the agreement. One component, a completion performance bond, was requested to insure the project could be completed if Boca Grande were to stop their project or run into difficulties. At this time, there is nothing to suggest in the background of Boca Grande or Jim Connelly, the lead developer, that such a scenario would play out. The tightening of the credit and bond market over the past year has made it increasingly difficult to find a company which would write the bond. Therefore, Boca and the city have agreed to withhold nearly $2 million of the city's $5.5 million investment in the Inn and Spa in an escrow account until actual construction on the new building begins. A second component, a life insurance policy on Frank Cumberbatch, one of the investors in Boca Grande and a resident of the city of Ripon, had to be altered as well. The initial policy request was for $4.3 million. Roughly one half of that policy has been approved. Boca Grande, in the most recent negotiations, agreed to contractual language which obligates them to continue pursuing the construction completion bond and the remaining life insurance coverage as the project moves forward.
As mayor, I would like to thank our staff and advisors for their diligent and thorough work on this project. An endeavor of this size does not come to pass without teamwork on both sides of the table. In the end, the city and Boca Grande went through 14 versions of the final developers agreement, before reaching the finish line. I am proud of the work we have done, and excited about the future. As has been my policy since we announced this agreement in August, the public is invited and encouraged to ask questions about the project and the city's involvement. No one who has asked questions about this project has been denied access to the public records and deliberations. The city and Boca Grande have held three informational meetings on the project, and additional public meetings may be held in the future as the numerous construction and redevelopment projects are launched.
On a personal note, I realize there will never be unanimous public consent on this project. It has never been my goal to seek 100 percent approval. It has been my goal to provide as much information as is legally permissible to allow everyone to form their own opinion, whether it is for or against. I believe in this project because I have always believed Ripon's best days are yet to come, and this project is a solid belief in the future of the downtown, the city of Ripon, and the region.
Posted by Aaron Kramer at 10/28/2009 12:00:00 AM
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
The signing of the official developer's agreement between the City of Ripon and the development firm of Boca Grande will take place at 430 PM in Ripon's City Hall. Members of the Council may attend, and may exceed the number for an official quorum, but no official action will take place, and this will not constitute an official meeting. Members of the public are invited to attend, and representatives from the city and Boca Grande will be available for questions.
Posted by Aaron Kramer at 10/27/2009 01:53:00 PM
Jeremy Custer, a Ripon College student, filed his completed Campaign
Registration Statement and Declaration for Candidacy for the office of
Mayor. This makes him the first official candidate for a City office
for the spring 2010 municipal election.
Jeremy has a Facebook page for now. Best of luck to him in the 2010 election.
Posted by Aaron Kramer at 10/27/2009 01:18:00 PM
The annual United Way Fundraiser Dinner will be Wednesday November 18th at Alibi’s from 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Adult tickets are $10 in advance and $12 at the door. There will be a cash bar, raffle prizes and silent auction items. The menu will consist of ham, chicken, mashed potatoes, vegetable, coleslaw, and dinner rolls. Carry-outs are available. Advance tickets are available from any United Way board member, or at any of the following locations: Ripon Chamber of Commerce, Ripon Drug, Ripon M&I Bank, and Ripon Pick ‘N Save.
Posted by Aaron Kramer at 10/27/2009 11:30:00 AM
After finishing in second place at the sectionals meet Saturday morning, the Tiger boys' cross country team is heading back to the state championship meet in Wisconsin Rapids. They run Saturday, Oct. 31 at 1:40 p.m. Only five of the 16 teams from last year’s field return to compete for the title in Division 2, including champion Tomahawk.The Hatchets will attempt to make it two in a row with three members of the team back from last year’s meet. Ripon, which is looking for its first-ever state team title in boys cross country, finished second in 1961, 1986 and 1997.
Congratulations to head coach Chris Gatzke and his "dynasty".
Posted by Aaron Kramer at 10/27/2009 10:26:00 AM
* Ordinance – adopting restrictions regarding burning within the City - The Council heard comments from the public on a proposed ordinance, based largely on Fond du Lac’s ordinance, with added language from DNR’s model ordinance on burn barrels, and the City of Beaver Dam’s “open burning” definition. Under the proposal, burn barrels could be used one day a week, provided appropriate materials are burned. The distance from structures would be set at 25 feet. Alderman Pape, after meeting with the fire chief and other city officials, requested that the item be tabled until November 23rd in order to have the city attorney draft a new ordinance modeled after the state's burning regulations. The motion to table was unanimously approved.
* Ordinance – repealing and recreating the City’s floodplain ordinance - The DNR has written a model floodplain ordinance, and they are requiring that cities across Wisconsin adopt this, or something similar. The Plan Commission approved the ordinance last week, and the council unanimously did last night. A new series of flood plain maps, which are not vastly different from the current ones, will be available in November.
* New 3-year agreement for audit services (2010-2012) – Schenck - The city solicited bids for auditing services, and Schenck was the lowest price of the 4 bids received at $57,300. The city council approved the 3-year deal, which means Schenck will be the city's auditor for nine years. Typically, you want to change auditors from time to time to allow a "fresh" set of eyes to look at the books, and the council agreed that a new audit firm may be needed as this contract expires.
* Proposed 2010 employee health insurance renewal – Network Health - The City’s retirees are being split off onto a plan separate from current staff. With this, and increasing deductibles ($3500 single; $7000 family), the base premium stays flat, and the estimated overall hike, including HRA, is 6%. The council approved the new insurance constract.
* CLOSED SESSION - The council discussed the proposed developer's agreement with Boca Grande. As of this morning, no agreement has been signed.
Posted by Aaron Kramer at 10/27/2009 10:19:00 AM
Monday, October 26, 2009
Tonight's Common Council meeting (Monday October 26th) has been moved from 7 to 730 PM, as two members were not positive they could make the 7 PM start time due to work conflicts. The Council agenda will also include a closed session after the regular meeting to discuss the developer's agreement with Boca Grande.
Posted by Aaron Kramer at 10/26/2009 04:01:00 PM