A legislative committee examines Wisconsin Technical College System funding and governance responsibilities. Lawmakers hear from experts at the state Capitol on “viable options to lowering property taxes.”
Joe Murray with the Wisconsin Realtors Association cites recent polls showing property tax is the “most onerous” tax for Wisconsin residents. He says, “According to a poll conducted by American Strategies conducted for the Wisconsin Realtors Association this February, 60 percent of Wisconsin voters feel that property taxes are too high.”
A Marquette Poll recently asked residents which tax would they cut if given the chance. Among homeowners, 48 percent said property taxes, 31 percent said income taxes, and 19 percent would cut sales taxes.
Morna Foy is president of the tech college system. She says they are now seeing less state investment in the system, while experiencing an increase in demand for their services.
Since the mid ’90s, the tech college property tax levy has increased by 156.5 percent. Todd Berry, president of the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance, says funding for the tech schools should be considered in the larger context of state tax reform.
Berry adds, there must be more cooperation among the different areas of education in our state. “We have a K-12 system; we have a tech college system; we have a higher ed system; we have no department of education; we have no secretary of education; we have no czar of education in the governor’s office.” So, he says, “whatever cooperation or collaboration is going on is voluntarily, largely, and of course turf will always be an issue.”
Berry says there needs to be optimally designed education and its administration in Wisconsin in order to use the system most intelligently and strategically.
Andrew Peterson is president of the System Board. Touting the significance of tech colleges, he says over 84 percent of their graduates remain in the state. He calls it the “reverse brain drain.”
State Representative John Nygren (R-Marinette) is chair of the Joint Council Legislative Study Committee, which met Thursday at the Capitol. He says the ever-growing tech college property tax levy has contributed to Wisconsin’s high property tax burden relative to other states — a burden, he says, on families and senior citizens living on fixed incomes. It also negatively impacts economic growth and home ownership in our state.
Nygren believes the goal of the study committee should be to explore ways to reduce the tech college tax levy while protecting the critical link between tech colleges and communities, employers, economic development associations, and K-12 schools.