Keep government accountable

Dear Editor,

The state Assembly Committee on Local Government held a public hearing on Wednesday, March 8, on a bill that would give local governments the option to stop publishing a summary of their actions in your newspaper. Assembly Bill 70 would allow local municipalities to post meeting minutes on their websites instead.

This is bad public policy under the guise of saving taxpayer dollars that would create considerable disruption for government transparency. Supporters of Assembly Bill 70 suggest local government websites are sufficient to notify the public of their actions and that publishing meeting minutes in the newspaper limits access only to newspaper subscribers.

The fact is, however, that all legal notices published throughout the state since 2005 are already available for free to the public through WisconsinPublicNotices.org. This comprehensive, searchable website hosted by the Wisconsin newspaper industry brings together ink-on-paper notices into one online location. This service is provided at no cost to local municipalities.

The goal of WisconsinPublicNotices.org is to enhance government’s distribution of public information and assist citizens who want to know more about the actions of their local, county and state representatives. This permanent, third-party documentation — unalterable and independent of government itself — ensures the protection of “your right to know” for each and every citizen.

For years, this relationship between newspapers, local municipalities and WisconsinPublicNotices.org has successfully provided easy access to government information for all citizens, whether they seek it in print or online. Removing existing publication requirements would create holes in this invaluable statewide database while also neglecting the needs of those who lack adequate computer and internet access.

Please tell your legislators to oppose this unnecessary barrier to government transparency.

Beth Bennett

Executive director

Wisconsin Newspaper Association

Asks how much is enough?

Dear editor,

I just looked at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee website to see the cost of tuition.  A full course load with fees is about $11,000 for a year.

Let’s consider the Menomonee Falls School District costs.  The spending per pupil is over $13,000 per year.

Yet is this enough?  Apparently not.

When will they stop asking?  At 15, 20, or $25,000 per pupil?  I doubt it.

Do you realize that after 13 years of schooling, you could have purchased a $175,000 home for each student instead? Do you realize that voucher schools somehow get by with 40 percent less per pupil.

We elected a governor that promised and delivered lower taxes.  MFSD is trying to guilt us into giving this money back.

The first two referendums were already too much.  MFSD, stop begging.

Vote No.

Patrick Grey

Menomonee Falls

Shows support for referendum

Dear editor,

This community has something special going on for the children of Menomonee Falls. I was an 11-year resident in the city of Waukesha and chose to sell the home we started our family in to commit to this community.

I am concerned that my children will not have the same experience many other students have had in our elementary schools. There is a clear difference between how Menomonee Falls elementary schools see our children versus other school districts. Value is placed on each child’s unique abilities and talents; personalization is at the heart of education here. Having quality instruction from the special areas of art, music and physical education help to drive that personalized experience for our students. There are many individual learning connections happening with all students by the hands of many different staff members. There are serious concerns that if our neighborhood schools are broken up and class sizes increase, students will lose those close, personal connections they have.

My wife and I are both teachers and I am currently the art teacher at Riverside and Valley View elementary school. There are many great things happening for the children who attend Riverside and Valley View that build independent learning skills and innovative creativity. My wife and I decided to build in Menomonee Falls because of the great schools and school district’s mission to meet the needs of the children of the community.

It is worth the efforts because we see the commitment from all teachers, principals and support staff. There are many great things happening that set our district above the neighboring schools. I do not want my children to miss out on the great opportunities our school district is providing. Without this referendum, our children may not have the great experiences as many other children and families have had.

Quinn Elliott

Menomonee Falls

Says referendum is ‘investment’

Dear editor,

I am writing to urge citizens of Menomonee Falls to vote yes on the operating referendum April 4.

Last year, we voted on two referendums, which were part of more than 150 school referendums in 2016 – a 10-year high, per the State Department of Public Instruction.

In 2016, we voted to invest in facilities, and now we need to invest in the learning that occurs inside each building. On April 4, we will vote on a revised operating referendum – only three years in duration and a smaller dollar amount.

Since last year, the School District of Menomonee Falls made $883,000 in budget cuts, which are part of $11.5 million in total reductions since 2011.

If the referendum fails, the cuts over the next four years will be widely felt. Forty staff positions would be cut, including certified teachers in physical education, art, music in K5 – fifth grade by 2020. My two kids would attend different elementary schools with the elimination of neighborhood schools. Fewer electives would be offered in sixth through 12th grade. Class sizes would increase at all levels.

A failed referendum will hurt our kids, our home values and community as a whole.

Our schools do so much more than just teach our children the basics; they teach them about being kind, respectful and all-around good citizens. Our district has brought home state titles in sports, business organizations and sportsmanship. The wide range of opportunities and talented staff have contributed to a 98-percent graduation rate. The success of our schools becomes part of the overall pride of being from Menomonee Falls.

Let’s help maintain our world-class academics. Let’s support our schools with a yes vote April 4.

Cathy Olig

Menomonee Falls

Weighs in on assessments

Dear editor,

Your Feb. 6 article regarding property tax assessments in Germantown lacks clarity and pertinent facts. I have studied property assessments in Wisconsin for 20 years. I have a deep understanding of how they work.

The village administrator and president you interviewed have only a cursory understanding at best. They have stated publicly that since the overall level of assessment is close to 100 percent, there is no problem. This is absurd and shows their lack of knowledge. The state determines the total value of all property at an aggregate level. The assessor determines the value of each individual property. The total of all properties as determined by the assessor divided by the state’s total value is the overall level of assessment.

The only thing you can say about a 100-percent ratio is that the assessor’s values add up to the state’s value. That’s all.

If I gave you a number and asked you to give me 10 numbers that add up to my number, would you even need third-grade math to do that? There is a lot more to assessing than just assigning numbers that add up to the state’s number.

Values assigned by the assessor must be uniform and equitable. In layman’s terms, uniformity means that to the extent two properties are similar their values are similar and to the extent two properties are different the values are different. There are state laws and guidelines that assessors are supposed to follow to make sure their values are uniform and equitable. It is not good enough that they simply add up to the state’s aggregate value.

Our village assessor from 2010 to 2016 did not follow state laws and guidelines and, as a result, the property values were not uniform and equitable. The village administrator and president have stated repeatedly that this isn’t true and that I am just biased. So who are you going to believe, someone who has studied property assessments for the last 20 years or two people who don’t even understand the statistics they quote?

The Department of Revenue reviewed our assessors’ assessment practices for the years 2012 through 2016. They found incompetence and misconduct. They communicated those findings in writing to the administrator and president who ignored the state’s findings.

Our administrator should release his annual reviews of our assessor’s work from 2010 through 2016 so they can be compared to the state’s findings. Then everyone can see who really knows what they are talking about.

Andy Pelkey

Franklin (Germantown property owner)

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