Gov. Walker Announces Budget Vetoes Including Low Revenue Ceiling Increase

Governor Walker has announced his budget vetoes including eight vetoes  relating to K-12 education.  The most notable veto is the veto of the relief for low revenue districts. The language below is taken directly from the “Governor’s Veto Message in Brief“:

Low Revenue Ceiling

“”I am vetoing this section entirely because the result is a substantial increase in property tax capacity that school districts may exercise without voter input.  In several school districts that would be eligible to raise taxes under these sections, referenda to exceed revenue limits already failed within the past two years.  An increase in revenue authority from the state in these districts would circumvent purposeful, local actions.

“It should also be noted that in some cases, the same districts that would have become eligible to increase their revenues with this adjustment have increased their base revenues at a rate higher than the state average.  This brings into question the need for this adjustment and highlights the need for local taxpayer input before a revenue limit adjustment is made.”

Editor’s Note:  As result of this veto, the low revenue adjustment level for school districts will remain at $9,100 in 2017-18 and thereafter.   Although low revenue districts will apparently lose out on this relief, which would have given them an opportunity  to increase their per pupil revenue up to the dollar amount specified without going to voters for referendum approval, those school districts (and all others) will still be able to pursue an increase in their revenue limit through a referendum as is the case under current law.  That said,   new restrictions on the scheduling of such referenda will take effect on January 1, 2018.   While a veto override is possible, it is too soon to know whether an override will be attempted.   Increases to the low revenue adjustment can and will be discussed in future state budgets.  While this veto is disappointing,  school districts across the state will benefit from other significant education investments in this budget, including meaningful increases in per pupil aid.  The per pupil increases provided are equal among all school districts

Other specific veto descriptions follow:

Energy Efficiency Revenue Limit Adjustment

I am partially vetoing this section to limit adoption of such resolutions to before January 1, 2018 or after December 3018.  I object to the temporary suspension of this revenue limit adjustment because I believe school districts should be required to use referenda to bypass revenue limits.  Many of the recently adopted resolutions for energy efficiency measures allowed school districts to exceed revenue limits by a significant amount.  Taxpayers should have a direct voice when large property tax increases are under consideration.  This veto will maintain the ability for school districts to ask taxpayers if they wish to exceed revenue limits and eliminate an exemption that has been viewed as a loophole to revenue limits.

School District Referenda Scheduling

I am partially vetoing these provisions to eliminate the ability of school districts to conduct the special elections to consider referenda as described above, but maintain the effective date of January 1, 2018 for the limitations on referendum scheduling.   School referenda should be known and considered by the greatest number of voters possible, and limiting referenda to regularly scheduled election days will further this principle.  Maintaining the delayed effective date will allow currently scheduled referenda to take place.

Whole Grade Sharing Aid

I am vetoing these sections in their entirety to eliminate the grant program for whole grade sharing and related reporting requirements.  Whole grade sharing is intended to create savings, which should be a built-in incentive; however, school districts have not taken advantage of whole grade sharing since it became permissible under 2015 Wisconsin Act 55. Therefore, I believe these funds can be repurposed to support more effective programs that support rural schools.

Shared Services Aid

I am vetoing these sections in their entirety to eliminate the grant program for shared services.  Sharing services will create savings for school districts; therefore, providing state grants would nullify savings to taxpayers that would result from local actions.  Additionally, I believe these funds can be repurposed to support more effective programs that support rural schools.

Summer School Grants

I am partially vetoing these provisions to create a grant to the Milwaukee Public Schools for summer school programs.  The program proposed in my Executive Budget was targeted to the district to augment the district’s summer school expansion efforts.  I object to the expansion of eligibility because it will dilute the funding, and therefore effectiveness, of the funds in the district.  I also believe that language specifying outcomes is unnecessary absent a competitive process, and would diminish the ability of a district to employ the funds in the most effective way.  As a result of this veto, the district will receive a grant of $1,400,000 in fiscal year 2018-19 for summer school programs, and no other districts will be eligible to apply for these funds.

Virtual Charter School Funding Study

I am vetoing this provision to eliminate the report.  I object to the increased administrative burden on the department.

Mental Health Services Grants

I am partially vetoing these sections as they relate to requirements on applicants and the requirement for an advisory committee.  I believe schools should have maximum flexibility in designing and implementing these collaborations and therefore the statutes creating the program should be general, not prescriptive.  Additionally, the requirement for an advisory committee is burdensome.  As a result of this veto, the department will have broad flexibility to specify grant criteria in administrative rule without an official advisory committee; however, the department should seek input from interested parties informally.