cur-mud-geon: anyone who hates hypocrisy and pretense and has the temerity to say so; anyone with the habit of pointing out unpleasant facts in an engaging and humorous manner
The MATC has developed yet another draft budget after the first such exercise produced the need for a 6.4% property tax increase (see Blog of April 23rd). At the time of that budget draft, the governor apparently said he would not countenance such an increase. MATC announced then that it would go back to the old drawing board and see what could be done to get down into the range of 'as little' as a 5.0% to 5.5% property tax increase.
Guess what? They can now apparently declare victory in this onerous task since the finance committee is only proposing a revised draft budget that would consume another 4.9% increase in property taxes. The proposed draft will come to a vote by the full board on May 27th.
MATC has developed budgets since 2004 that will have caused property tax increases of more than 30% if this draft is ultimately approved.
Has your personal income increased by 30% in the past four years? Has your savings account grown by 30% in the past four years? Has yours become a single income family instead of a dual income family in the past four years? I doubt it. But, if so, congratulations! Even with such an increase, if that has happened for you, I'll wager that you have better places to put your hard-earned money.
The MATC finance committee says it has cut all it could cut from the budget. Jeannette Bell, committee member and former West Allis mayor, was in favor of not only this 4.9% property tax increase, but also favors reducing the reserve account held by MATC which has been done as part of this draft.
People costs are budgeted to increase significantly. Wages and salaries will go up about $1.5 million. Health care costs will rise by some $2 million. Other 'fringe' benefits will add another $4.5 million, including $2 million required to bring the recognition of accrued benefits onto the MATC books like any other 'business' must do today. That is $2 million of 'funny money'; where else would we find accounting tricks employed if we were to subject this institution to the standards maintained by businesses?
I cannot accept the statement that MATC has cut 'everything possible' and still needs this kind of increase budget over budget. The paragraph above suggests to me that people costs are way too high, and a very quick way to achieve reductions there is to have fewer people. Maybe MATC should think about outsourcing certain functions. Maybe they should think about 'tough love' negotiations with union representatives. There are or ought to be limits even for tax-funded entities.
Maybe MATC needs to review its class demand and determine the bottom third by attendance and end those classes. If there is insufficient demand, there is apparently not an identifiable 'significant' need. MATC cannot be providing services to a market that doesn't exist in sufficient numbers to show demand. That would free up space for other uses, and it would, or should, enable staff cuts that will reduce costs.
It is impossible to forget, in this debate over MATC, that there is a very real problem with the Milwaukee schools system and we must recognize that some of MATC's costs should rightfully be paid for by the Milwaukee school system since MATC is mopping up after that dismal performance. Adult high school education classes and GED classes are an example of how the public education structure in Milwaukee fails its students and the residents of the community. Interestingly enough, this may well be an intended consequence rather than an unintended consequence. It gets non-Milwaukee taxpayers to pay more of the Milwaukee education costs than is already done through state tax distribution formula.
Finally, I suggest once again that MATC needs to clean up its many acts. It needs to get out of the failed business incubator function. It needs to quit building physical monuments to itself and its leaders. It needs to look at sale and lease-back arrangements. It needs to reduce staff.
Frankly, it is becoming more and more apparent that significant leadership changes may be required, as well. MATC leadership seems to be ignorant of the public's needs. This is an institution answerable to no one other than the governor through his ability to appoint members to the state technical college board. The state legislature and the governor must act to bring this renegade system under absolute control. There must be a change in the manner in which the state board and the district boards are created; voters need to determine who sits on those boards. The current incestuous approach simply doesn't work...for anyone other than the leaders and those who sit on the rubber stamp boards.
All this brings me to the next obvious question: Where do we stand in the quest for permission to move to another technical college district? There seems to have been a long delay in the process; maybe it is justified. I hope it doesn't mean that the movement has been quietly put to sleep.