School tax levy raised
How they voted
The Janesville School Board voted as follows to raise property taxes 2.5 percent:
Yes: Greg Ardrey, Karl Dommershausen, Kevin Murray, Lori Stottler, Bill Sodemann.
No: Kristin Hesselbacher, Scott Feldt, DuWayne Severson, Peter Severson.
By the numbers
Percent increase in the school tax levy for Janesville.
Amount the owner of an average-priced home will see their taxes go up.
JANESVILLE In a meeting markedly different from any in the past 15 years, the Janesville School Board on Tuesday night voted to raise taxes.
The board spent more than two hours debating the issue, voting on proposal after proposal, to no avail.
In the end, in a compromise that seemed to please no one, the board voted 5-4 for a 2.5 percent increase in the school tax levy.
Officials estimated the increase would mean the owners of the average-priced $112,700 home would pay an additional $22.57 for the school portion of their property taxes.
The levy is $896,933 larger than last year, or $36.77 million.
The board voted 13 times on various proposals, all of them formulas for filling the 2011-12 budget's $5.65 million deficit.
Nearly all the proposals sought to fill the budget hole with two things: a tax increase or fund balance, or both. Mostly both.
Some school-board members, such as Peter Severson and Kristin Hesselbacher, wanted to tax as much as the state revenue cap allows, a 5.6 percent increase, estimated to cost the average homeowner about $52 more than last year.
Others wanted as little tax as possible.
DuWayne Severson pleaded passionately for no increase, saying Janesville residents who lost their jobs just can't afford it.
DuWayne Severson noted that the city is proposing a wheel tax and an increase in the water rate, and other taxing jurisdictions might also raise taxes. He said the school board should take that into account.
Severson did budge slightly, proposing a 0.25 percent tax increase, but that, like so many other proposals, could not get a majority.
Hesselbacher also backed down slightly from her tax-to-the-max approach, proposing a 4.58 percent increase.
Bill Sodemann and Scott Feldt, also advocating for as little tax as possible, were willing to bend a little more, but their ideas didn't fly, either.
The board voted 5-4 or 6-3 against proposals to increase taxes by 1 percent, 2 percent, 3 percent and more.
The low-taxers and the higher-taxers sometimes voted together, for very different reasons.
In the end, two of the "no" votes were from members who wanted to tax to the max, and two were from those who wanted to hold the line as much as possible.
Bill Sodemann, a longtime fiscal conservative and board president, appeared to have had enough shortly after 10 p.m.
"I need to get a deal done whether I like it or not," Sodemann said before the final vote.
On the other side was Lori Stottler: "I don't like it. I think it's too low," she said of the tax increase.
But with the board split as it is, "it is what it is, and we address it next year," Stottler said.
Stottler was referring to the fact that with the levy set, the remaining deficit of nearly $4 million would likely come from the fund balance, the district's reserve. That amount becomes a deficit on the district's books for the following school year, because that money was available once; it won't be available next year.
DuWayne Severson said in the end that he hoped the board wasn't voting for the increase because of the late hour, and he chided unnamed fiscal conservatives, asking them to stand up for their principles.
"I think the people of our community deserve better," DuWayne Severson said.
Kristin Hesselbacher, on the opposite end of the question, was equally passionate, choking up as she delivered her thoughts. She noted that the board has taxed less than the maximum in six of the past eight years.
"We have done a good job minding the taxpayers' dollars," she said. "Now, I think we need to mind the taxpayers' assets, and that is the School District of Janesville. I keep saying it: No one's going to move to Janesville if we don't have an excellent school system."