I thought I heard it all about tax hikes when leaders of the area business chamber, Forward Janesville, said local residents must except higher tax obligations or else face an economic death spiral. But Milton officials (Pop: 5,564) now seem to be not only embracing that logic, but are taking it to the next plateau.
At least that's my first impression after reading this article, titled "We're asking for help," by the Janesville Gazette. Apparently, the Milton School District is seeing public opposition to a substantial tax hike referendum and appears to be asking the newspaper for help.
The newspaper you might recall, did a slam-bang knock-up job campaigning articles and editorials for Janesville's $71 million school expansion referendum way back in 2006. Since then, the conservative newspaper has become the go-to expert on the art of the cover-up and misinformation when local officials need to reverse-spin public opposition into their favor. So much that even Elmbrook School officials paid a visit to Janesville in 2007 to review strategy surrounding the school district's approved referendum to help them sell their own $99 million referendum. The newspaper wins awards for that stuff, so who could blame the Milton school district for turning to the Gazette for help.
So in my view, the only way to accurately read the Gazette's Sunday story about the Milton school district seeking help is to preface it with that history.
It begins with a narrative that Milton taxpayers shouldn't look at the new spending proposal as a tax hike, but instead as a favor to maintain current tax speed.
School districts often take on new debt as old debt rolls off, he said. As old debt is retired, districts sometimes take on new debt to level the debt load and keep even the impact to taxpayers, Schigur said.
The above statement wasn't just an accidental burp by the official. The Gazette's story is built around it with pie charts showing Milton taxpayers have a lower tax burden than peer school districts.
It doesn't matter whether you're a conservative or a progressive, a Democrat or a Republican, I think THAT is the last thing taxpayers want to hear. Milton officials are saying they want to keep the debt up so the taxes locals are used to paying ...stay on cruise control. To them it's not a spike in taxes IF they never shut it off.
In a nutshell, they're also saying that the tax hike referendum is necessary, not for the product or services it will pay for, but that it will act as a maintenance program for taxpayers.
You see, their logic must be something like this: When taxes fall too low or when public debt is finally paid off, the extra money local taxpayers find in their pockets cause them to suffer from a variety of maladies including the dreaded Forward Janesville economic "death spiral." So to alleviate taxpayer pain, local governments institute spending requests to keep those "impacts" down. To sort of, cushion future shock.
In other words, you're ripe and ready for a tax hike referendum! That's your reward. See?
Keep in mind folks, this is only the beginning of their campaign and it's already entertaining.
RNR - School Referendum How-To