Fiscal Transparency in Oshkosh Schools: Why our property taxes have risen unnecessarily.

Our community believes in education. We want what is best for our schools and can understand investing in proven programming that can improve outcomes for our children. In 2020, our community demonstrated this commitment by approving an operational referendum on the order of $7.95 million per year for 8 years.

In addition, the community approved a $107 million building referendum. At the time, district leaders told us that this referendum would cost property taxpayers $84.96 per every $100,000 in property value1. However, this past year, in the city of Oshkosh, taxpayers were charged $397.13 per $100,000 in value. This is 4.67 times greater than what we were told in 2020. Over the last 2 years, someone that owns a $200,000 house has paid just under $1,200 more than what district leaders told us2. I am dumbfounded as to why the school board, including all the incumbents I am running against, believe it is acceptable to say one thing but do something else.

District administrators are not shy about why they are doing this. The idea is pretty simple. They have argued that they are paying down a portion of the $107 million referendum early and that this will save us on interest. No doubt this is true. But, more importantly, if we bring the referendum tax levy up to an amount that is sufficient to cover the next $170 million referendum to complete phase 2 of the long range facilities plan, and we do this now, then when they go out to the taxpayer to pitch the referendum, they can say “This isn’t going to cost you much more than you are already paying.” And while all of this is technically legal, I would argue that it is completely disingenuous.

We have all felt the impact of inflation. A recent survey suggests that 78% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck3. And while some might argue this over charge is only going to impact property owners, one can be sure that these costs are going to be passed down to renters. I find this political maneuvering troubling. Simply, we must be transparent with the voting public. Not doing so, I would argue, will jeopardize the trust the public has with our school leaders and could lead to less likelihood of future referendum support. And, lets also remember that the long-range facilities plan has 4 phases to it. If the district leadership team is willing to not stand by what they told us before the 2020 referendum, why should we believe they won’t do the same and increase the levy again in preparation for the 2030 referendum for phase 3 of the facilities plan.

1. Available on district website here
2. An application that calculates your specific amount you have been overcharged is available here
3. survey conducted fall of 2023.

Read more issues:
Accountability in Oshkosh Schools
Voice of the Teachers

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It is time for change and accountability in Oshkosh public schools.

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