Kevin Fischer is a veteran broadcaster, the recipient of over 150 major journalism awards from the Milwaukee Press Club, the Wisconsin Associated Press, the Northwest Broadcast News Association, the Wisconsin Bar Association, and others. He has been seen and heard on Milwaukee TV and radio stations for over three decades. A longtime aide to state Senate Republicans in the Wisconsin Legislature, Kevin can be seen offering his views on the news on the public affairs program, "InterCHANGE," on Milwaukee Public Television Channel 10, and heard filling in on Newstalk 1130 WISN. He lives with his wife, Jennifer, and their lovely baby daughter, Kyla Audrey, in Franklin.
Here is an excerpt from Franklin Mayor Tom Taylor’s proposed 2012 City of Franklin budget written by Finance Director Cal Patterson:
“The City of Franklin has for many years included solid waste charges as part of the services funded by the property tax levy. The Mayor is proposing starting in 2012 that these charges be funded by those citizens that receive the benefit of garbage collection, recycling collection, leaf and brush collection and residential drop off services at the DPW yard. This funding will be in the form of a special charge that will be added annually to the property tax bill.
The amount of the gross charge is calculated to be $140 per year for each single family home. The amount of the actual charge will be about $104.”
I’m not sure how an actual charge has to be described by the word about.
We’ll come back, but first, some important background is in order.
During 2010, and especially around budget time, I wrote several blogs about Franklin being a tax hell and backed them up with factual, numerical data. Last December, following passage of our city budget and about the time property tax bills were to be mailed, Steve Walters wrote a column in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel comparing property taxes in Wisconsin from 2002-2010, or Governor Jim Doyle’s tenure in office.
From one of my blogs:
Here is one of Steve Walters’ findings:
"+19.1%: The Legislative Fiscal Bureau estimates that the December 2002 net property tax bill on that mythical median-valued Wisconsin home was $2,517, and the bills that will soon be arriving in that homeowner's mailbox will be for $3,000 - a $19.1% increase."
Walters’ column got me wondering how the city of
The property tax levy is the most important tax piece. In 2002,
Rather than focus on the levy,
OK, so let’s look at the tax rate. In 2002,
Even if you just look at the past four years going back to 2006,
This Just In…December 13, 2010.
One week before that blog, and again, after the budget tax levy increase had been approved, I blogged the following:
Last month, the Franklin Common Council on a vote of 5-1 with support from Mayor Tom Taylor adopted a 2.6 percent property tax levy increase during a recession when taxpayers are facing salary and benefit cuts, job losses, and foreclosures. We who pay the bills were lectured that this tax and spending increase was “responsible.” In other words, keep your mouth shut, accept it, and pay your bill on time.
Just a few weeks later, could it be that a case of the guilts has descended upon City Hall?
At the request of Mayor Taylor, an informational report has been compiled for Tuesday’s Franklin Common Council meeting entitled: “Comparison of Municipal Property Tax Rates and Other Municipal Charges.” The intent is crystal clear. The report, prepared November 30, is to be used as ammunition in defense of the recession property tax levy hike.
The Mayor, the report states, asked for the analysis “to address whether or not Franklin has high taxes compared to other communities. It further claims, “Franklin has very low municipal property taxes when compared to other Milwaukee County communities, and when other municipal special charges are considered, Franklin fairs (sic) even better.”
I’m sure that comes as great comfort to Franklin taxpayers who will be brimming with exuberance when they get their annual Christmas present from the city in the mailbox later this month.
City staff analyzed the assessed property tax rates for all 19 Milwaukee County communities and then applied the 2009 Aggregate ratio of Assessment to those rates to determine an equalized property tax rate for each community. The Franklin reports states, “Franklin has the third lowest rate with 13 of the communities exceeding Franklin’s rate by more than fifty cents per thousand dollars of equalized value and nine of those communities exceeding Franklin’s rate by more than $1.00 per thousand dollars of equalized value..”
The report then makes this bold claim:
“From this perspective, Franklin clearly has very low municipal property taxes when compared to other Milwaukee County communities.”
Another key point of the report is that other communities impose “special charges” for services. Franklin does not assess a special charge for garbage collection, recycling, or storm water utility.
Finally, the report asserts, “Franklin’s equalized municipal property tax rate is one of the lowest in the County. (The special charges in other communities) clearly solidifies Franklin’s position as a comparatively low taxed and charged community.”
This analysis is not convincing and, quite frankly, flawed.
The report emphasizes tax rates, a common ploy of the tax and spenders. The tax rate is meaningless. It’s the property tax levy that’s important.
This Just In…December 6, 2010
1) Last year, yours truly, and some other bloggers complained about Franklin taxes, a sentiment I submit is shared by thousands of Franklin taxpayers.
2) The criticism falls on deaf ears. The School Board and the Common Council both approve budgets with property tax levy increases beyond the rate of inflation.
3) After the budgets were approved, bloggers continued their review.
4) Mayor Taylor authorized Finance Director Patterson to compile a report on the tax rates and fees charged in other Milwaukee County municipalities and used the report as defense that Franklin is not a tax hell (More on this shortly).
5) Mayor Taylor proposes a garbage collection fee in his 2012 city budget arguing that:
A) Each citizen will pay the same rate
B) Citizens not receiving the service will not have to pay
C) Our tax levy will be more comparable to surrounding communities
The mayor acknowledges “the property tax levy will decline but a special charge will go up by a corresponding amount,” and “there will be some income tax impact of reducing the deductible property tax charge and replacing it with a non deductible special charge.”
Most elected officials with taxing authority in Franklin have a tax and spend mentality. The garbage collection fee is yet another symptom of that mentality.
This could set a precedent, opening Pandora’s Box. What future fees could be next?
During the 1980 city of Milwaukee mayoral race between Henry Maier and Dennis Conta, the challenger, Conta called for a tax on suburbanites who worked in the city of Milwaukee. Maier correctly countered that you do not lower taxes by increasing other taxes.
Former Milwaukee County Supervisor Gerald Engel used to keep a small sign on his desk that read: “A tax is a tax is a tax.” A fee or a “charge” as Mayor Taylor puts it, is just another word for tax. Rest assured, the garbage collection fee is a tax.
Finally, Mayor Taylor was singing a different tune about fees and charges at a meeting late last year caught on video by blogger Bryan Maersch where Taylor says a garbage fee is “tacking on another tax.”
I have my doubts how property taxpayers will enjoy serious savings from the garbage collection fee that should be dumped in the garbage where it belongs.