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Four-year audit requested week before ballot referendum for schools

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(The Center Square) – Before next week’s vote on a Milwaukee Public Schools referendum, a state lawmaker wants an audit of the district.

In the April 2 primary, voters in Milwaukee and Washington counties will be asked yes or no on a commitment that will increase property taxes by $216 per $100,000 assessment.

The ballot language says, “a ‘yes’ vote supports authorizing the school district to incrementally increase its annual revenue limit by a total of $252 million over four years and maintaining that level thereafter with an estimated property tax increase of $216 per $100,000 of assessed property value.”

And, “a no vote opposes authorizing the school district to incrementally increase its annual revenue limit.”

State Rep. Bob Donovan, R-Greenfield, on Monday requested the audit of the previous four years in a letter to the co-chairmen of the Joint Legislative Finance Committee. He asks how the funding will improve student outcomes.

Wisconsin Right Now first reported the letter in detail on Sunday.

Donovan writes that the district received $772 million from the federal government for the COVID-19 response and, as of Dec. 22, still had $63 million. He also noted an $87 million referendum approved in 2020.

The district hasn’t outlined a spending plan for the money over four years. It cites inflation and threatens broad cuts if voters reject the measure.

Kyle Koenen, policy director of the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, last week told The Center Square, “MPS has said that ‘We need to pass this referendum, and then we’ll get a report on how we can consolidate schools after that.’ That seems like pretty basic stuff, that before you’re going to go to voters and ask them for a quarter of a billion dollars annually, you should have a plan and really exhaust all options and try to right-size the district.”

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