Wisconsin Press

Shawano Gov. Schools Seek to Increase Debt to $43.3 Million

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Shawano, WI – Taxpayers United of America (TUA) urges Shawano School District taxpayers to VOTE NO on the $14 million property tax increase referendum November 3, 2015.
“Government school bureaucrats in Shawano suffer from the same policies that are destroying cities across the country….borrow, spend, rinse, repeat!” stated Jim Tobin, TUA president and Shawano resident.
“The school district can’t bare to give taxpayers a break by paying off existing debt. Instead, they plan to increase your property taxes through new debt of $14 million to grow their empire. Not to mention they are trying to pull a fast one on us by understating the property tax increase on their propaganda and omitting the interest on the debt. Shawano School district’s total debt would climb to $43.3 million if this referendum is passed.”
“The real reason for the special election is that voter turnout is typically much lower than in a regular election. This gives the bureaucrats the edge because they order the union minions to show up and vote for the referendum. After all, this additional $14 million in taxpayer expenditures will give plenty of the construction union members more taxpayer-funded jobs.”
“The Shawano School Board bureaucrats have already increased the 2015/2016 budget by $140,000 and plan on giving an automatic 2% wage increase to all school employees, whether they deserve it or not. I’m guessing that not too many of the taxpayers in Shawano School District have gotten automatic pay increases over the last several years.”
According to the Census Bureau, Shawano County’s per capita income is $23,500…that’s every man, woman, and child.
“Take a look at the salaries and estimated pensions of the Shawano government teachers and administrators. They are listed on the back of our VOTE NO flyer. Do you really think they are underpaid and need another pay increase? The top 8 or so names are all administrators who don’t educate students whatsoever.”
“It’s time for all government employees to understand that when they ask for more money, it is essentially like knocking on their neighbor’s door and demanding a check for $200 or more! Their employer isn’t some nameless, faceless government entity; they are their neighbors, the taxpayers who employ them and fund their salaries, benefits, and empire building.”
“63% of the Shawano School District operating budget goes to salaries, pensions, and other benefits of government school employees. This is down from about 76%, likely due to Gov. Walker’s reforms requiring teachers to pay into their own pensions.”
“Shawano taxpayers need to defeat this money grab and demand our school bureaucrats live within our means, not to continue to spend beyond what we can afford. They need to learn, once and for all, that the taxpayers refuse to let them treat us like their own personal ATM!”
“VOTE NO on the latest money grab on November 3. Polls are open from 7 am to 8 pm,” urged Tobin.
Click here to download a copy of our Flyer and Shawano Government Schools top salaries and estimated pensions.

Wisconsin Reporter | Will taxpayers have to pay for frivolity of John Doe prosecutors?

TUA’s pension project on Wisconsin government employees is utilized in this story from the Wisconsin Reporter about the John Doe investigation targeting Wisconsin conservative groups.
frivolousBy M.D. Kittle | Wisconsin Reporter
MADISON, Wis. — Frivolous.
That’s the word that U.S. District Judge Rudolph Randa has repeatedly applied to motions filed by John Doe prosecutors-turned-defendants in a civil rights lawsuit.
Most notably, last month Randa said that he was “absolutely convinced that the defendants’ attempt to appeal this issue is a frivolous effort to deprive the Court of its jurisdiction to enter an injunction,” the federal judge wrote in his ruling that reinstated his preliminary injunction shutting down a secret John Doe investigation into dozens of conservative groups.
Then, earlier this week the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that Randa did have the authority to issue the preliminary injunction, shutting down the nearly 2-year-old probe. And the appeals court questioned the defendants’ defense, that they are immune from the federal lawsuit because of protections under the 11th Amendment.
Take that notion up with “Ex Parte Young,” the 7th Circuit told the prosecutors, referring to a century-plus-old Supreme Court ruling that allows lawsuits in federal courts against state officials despite a state’s claim of “sovereign immunity.”
The question has arisen, particularly from conservative targets of the investigation: Do Wisconsin taxpayers have to pick up the tab for the prosecutors’ defense if, indeed, their motions are deemed frivolous?
The answer is, yes, and maybe not.
Conservative activist Eric O’Keefe and his Wisconsin Club for Growth, targets of the investigation, in February filed a civil rights lawsuit against Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm, the Democrat who launched the secret probe in late summer 2012; his two assistant DAs, Bruce Landgraf and David Robles; John Doe special prosecutor Francis Schmitz; and Dean Nickel, a special investigator contracted by the state Government Accountability Board.
The lawsuit claims the prosecutors and the shadowy investigator violated their First Amendment rights in an investigation based on a legal theory that the conservative groups may have illegally coordinated with Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign. Randa has found the theory seriously flawed, indicating, as did the presiding John Doe judge, that the conservatives did not commit any crime under Wisconsin campaign finance law — a portion of which was recently ruled unconstitutional by the 7th Circuit.
Constitutional law expert Rick Esenberg  says under civil rights cases, parties can recover attorney fees for frivolous motions.
But what about Wisconsin taxpayers, who are paying the legal defense bills of the defendants, to the tune of potentially more than $150,000? Would they be reimbursed? That is, would the state be reimbursed?
“The state can, whoever is reviewing the bill at the state, can say, ‘We’re not going to pay you for that. That’s not professional work. Everyone knows you can bring Ex Parte Young for an injunctive claim for relief,” Esenberg said.
Well, apparently not everyone.
It becomes a question of contracts and professional liability, Esenberg said. A court would have to decide whether there was malpractice involved.
“It’s just like if you hire a guy to replace your roof and he screws up the east side of the roof,” said Esenberg, president and general counsel of the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, a Milwaukee-based public interest law firm.
There’s much at stake in this lawsuit for the prosecutors. O’Keefe and the club are not only suing the defendants in their official capacities, but in their individual capacities. If the plaintiffs win their lawsuit and are award damages, the prosecutors and Nickel could face expensive personal judgments.
Their “1 percent” wages and savings could be up for grabs.
Robles grossed $123,209.05 last year, at an hourly rate of $57.218, according to information Wisconsin Reporter obtained through the Milwaukee County Office of the Comptroller. Robles, who started with the Milwaukee County DA’s office in 1982, is a state employee like his fellow assistant DAs, but he opted for a more lucrative Milwaukee County pension and retirement health benefits plan.
Taxpayers United of America in 2010 estimated that Robles’ total retirement payout, including Social Security would top $2.27 million, if Robles lives to average life expectancy on the Social Security Administration’s actuarial table.
Robles’ pension more than likely would be off limits in any legal judgment. Such covered benefits are generally protected from damage awards, Esenberg said.
“That’s why when O.J. Simpson had a big judgment against him, he still was not living in poverty because his pension could not be touched,” the attorney said. “When they collect a judgment, they look for money in the bank, they garnish wages, they can foreclose on property, although there are all sorts of exemptions and complications.”
Landgraf earned $112,017.45 in gross pay, at $53.27 an hour, last year, according to the state.
Chisholm’s salary was $133,389.52, at $64.27 an hour.
We don’t know exactly how much Schmitz and Nickel have pulled in under the employ of the Government Accountability Board.
In 2014 alone, the GAB has spent at least $55,000 in connection with the John Doe investigation, including paying both Nickel and Schmitz as special investigators, according to a lawsuit that O’Keefe recently filed against the GAB in Waukesha County Circuit Court.
The state Department of Administration, in charge of the state’s bills, isn’t talking about the contracts, citing the John Doe secrecy order even after Randa ordered the probe shut down.
“As you are undoubtedly aware, anything dealing with an alleged John Doe investigation is normally sealed in accordance with the law Wis. Stat 968.26(3),” wrote Patricia Reardon, DOA program and policy analyst, in response to Wisconsin Reporter’s open records request. “Therefore, to the extent any such alleged contracts or communications did in fact exist, we would be compelled to deny your request.”
Wisconsin Reporter also attempted to contact Brian Hagehorn, Walker’s chief legal counsel. Ironically, as the John Doe prosecutors have spent years investigating Walker’s campaign, it’s the governor’s legal representative who authorized the contracts putting state taxpayers on the hook for the prosecutors’ legal fees.
Walker spokeswoman Laurel Patrick did not return multiple requests for comment over the past three days.
Wisconsin Reporter sought answers to these questions:

  • Should the state be responsible for covering the legal bills of defendants who file frivolous motions?
  • Will the governor’s office challenge the bills if the motions are ultimately deemed to be frivolous?
  • Also, Wisconsin Reporter would like to know whether Schmitz is being paid for his special prosecutor services during the time he spends defending himself in federal court?

Silence. Like the secrecy order surrounding the John Doe investigation.
The prosecutors repeatedly have declined to comment on the lawsuit or the probe.

Wisconsin Reporter | DPI’s highest compensated employees get richer

TUA Executive Director Rae Ann McNeilly was quoted by the Wisconsin Reporter about the highest compensated public employees within the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.
dpiBy Ryan Ekvall | Wisconsin Reporter
MADISON, Wis. — The past two years have been good to high-level administrators in state Superintendent Tony Evers’ Department of Public Instruction.
More than half of the employees working in Evers’ office received bonuses in the past two years, while less than a quarter of all other DPI employees received bonus compensation, according to records obtained by Wisconsin Reporter through an open records request.
The state calls these pay raises discretionary merit, equity or retention compensation awards. It’s how government employers increase workers’ pay beyond the salary adjustment for all state employees, which is set by the Legislature.
Since June 2012, the department has handed out bonuses to 117 employees. The department employs 487 people, according to the staff directory. Four employees received two bonuses in the past two years.
In total, the department handed out $398,140 in permanent pay increases and $63,700 in one-time cash payments, records showed.
While most state employees received raises of 1 percent pay, it was best to be in Evers’ inner circle. Seven of 11 in Evers’ cabinet, who already make more in annual salary than 95 percent of Wisconsin workers, received an additional $30,230 in bonus compensation in the past two years.

  • Michael Thompson, deputy superintendent, received a $2.36-hourly raise in October 2013, bringing his salary to $125,735, from $120,807. Thompson now earns more than Evers, who makes $120,111 a year.
  • Carolyn Stanford Taylor, assistant state superintendent, received a $2.152-hourly raise to $114,475.
  • Lynette Russell, an assistant state superintendent, received a raise of $2 an hour to $115,258.
  • Sheila Briggs, assistant state superintendent, received a $2 an hour raise, bringing her salary to $115,258.
  • Kurt Kiefer, assistant state superintendent, received a $1.991 an hour raise to $115,258.
  • Brian Pahnke, assistant state superintendent, received a $2.152 an hour raise to $114,475.
  • John Johnson, a spokesman for the agency, received a $1.893 an hour raise to $94,906.

Several other employees in the Office of State Superintendent also received bonuses.

  • Jennifer Kammerud, a legislative liaison, received a $1 an hour raise to $73,658.
  • Karen Nowakowski, another Evers’ assistant, received a $1 an hour raise to $59,193.
  • Mary Jo Christiansen, an assistant to Evers, received a $1 an hour raise to $53,714.
  • Rebecca Hannah, another Evers’ assistant, received a $1 an hour raise to $50,488.

Click here to see the full data.
Technically, the department doesn’t grant bonuses, DPI told Wisconsin Reporter when it fulfilled the open records request, “but rather the ability to grant increases pursuant to the Compensation Plan.”
The Legislature sets the state employee Compensation Plan, which is then published by the Office of State Employment Relations.
Personnel evaluations, which are required for state agencies to award merit, equity or retention pay raises, are not subject to the public records law. The Office of State Employment Relations does not review the evaluations before approving compensation awards.
“We’re sucking up money from poor, rural farming communities and giving it to handpicked administrators on criteria that isn’t even articulated to the public,” said Rae Ann McNeilly, executive director of Taxpayers United of America, a government watchdog organization which works in Illinois and Wisconsin. “The money goes into this big money pot and the bureaucracy grows.”
According to the compensation plan, state agencies must develop procedures to grant discretionary merit compensation and equity and retention adjustments in compliance with OSER directives. OSER must approve these payments unless they delegate the authority to the state agency.
Stephanie Marquis, spokeswoman for the Department of Administration, said that while DPI has not been granted delegation authority, OSER has approved DPI’s plan to award merit, equity and retention awards. Merit awards, she said, are to recognize employees for outstanding performance. Equity and retention awards are to retain employees or get their pay equitable with counterparts.
“Taxpayers need to be aware of where their money is going,” McNeilly said. “The bureaucrats don’t want you to see it. This is the problem with removing local control in education. We are siphoning money away from taxpayers up to a bureaucracy and removing it from the students DPI purports to be collecting it on behalf of.”

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Taxpayers United Of America: (TUA). is a nonpartisan, 501(c)(4) taxpayer advocacy group. Founded June 27, 1976 in Chicago, Illinois by activist and economist Jim Tobin, TUA works on behalf of taxpayers to reduce local, state, and federal taxes. In the past forty years, TUA has saved taxpayers more than $200 billion n taxes and has become one of the largest taxpayer organizations in America. Check All posts. s.

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