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Wednesday, September 02, 2020

What They Won't Tell Us About Janesville's School Referendums

TIF Districts in Janesville will hit the Jackpot if voters approve school referendums proposed by the Janesville School District. The three tax hike referendums combined (including one for Blackhawk Tech) will significantly increase everyone's property tax bill, but any new dollars collected from properties inside TIF Districts in the name of education will instead go directly into the TIF surplus fund for redistribution - NOT for school needs!

Early reviews show city TIF District surplus accounts will pick up $236K in the first year from the proposed Janesville school district's operational budget referendum alone. $472K in the second year. $708K in the third and $944K in the fourth year. The total jackpot is expected to reach an estimated $2.4M. To be fair, the amount is almost irrelevant since even one dollar diverted away from the purpose of the referendum is theft.

Believe it or not, state law prohibits using TIF surplus revenue (increment) for public schools despite the fact these referendum dollars are collected in the name of education and school improvements.

I won't even begin to explain how, why and who rigged the system this way. But I will recommend voting "NO" on all three referendums.

NOTE: The dollar amounts were calculated from a confusing school district "doubling" explanation as reported by the Janesville Gazette. The amounts could change at any moment, but the TIF Districts role and ability to confiscate tax revenue for use other than intended remains firmly intact.

Aside from the expected windfall for TIF Districts, initial estimates for the schools' operational referendum indicated a tax bill on a Janesville home with a tax assessed value of $175,000 in 2020 would increase $70 in year one, $140 in year two, $210 in year three and $280 in year four. The total take would be $700 over the four year term of the proposed referendum.

If your pre-referendum 2020 tax bill was $4,000, it would be $4,280 in the last year of the referendum assuming no other increases, referendums or adjustments. Good luck with that and what happens in year five looks to be a double disaster.

New figures released a couple days ago by the Janesville school administration however changed the first year tax bill increase on a $100K assessed home to $39. So the first year increase on a $175K assessed home would now be $68 (down from $70) with declining, not doubling, amounts each year thereafter. Their new adjusted amounts seem deliberately deceiving without explaining whether each annual increase is accumulative on the pre-referendum tax bill.

The language construction in the referendum question will be the bottom line. If it's a spending referendum, tax payers can expect to be hammered because it will allow the district to levy whatever it takes, regardless of state aid amounts or economic factors, to get that amount. If it's a taxing referendum with a strict cap on levy dollars each year, Janesville taxpayers may have a better guarantee, but the amount the district wants is expected to almost double the local levy for operational spending in four years.

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