By Kevin Boneske
GREEN BAY – State Rep. John Macco (R-Ledgeview) held three listening sessions Monday, May 13, to speak with his constituents in the 88th Assembly District, which includes portions of Green Bay and De Pere, along with Bellevue, Glenmore and much of Ledgeview.
His final listening session of the day in the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay’s University Union lasted more than an hour while he answered questions on a variety of issues being dealt with by the State Legislature.
Macco spoke several minutes about state funding for education, for which he called the current funding formula a “disaster.”
“We literally reward dysfunctional schools,” he said.
Macco praised the Howard-Suamico School District and Superintendent Damian LaCroix who was named the by the Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators as the 2017 Wisconsin Superintendent of the Year.
HSSD officials stated at a forum they hosted last Friday that the district is being underfunded by about $7 million when compared to the state average.
“(LaCroix) runs a tight ship, has very little debt, very little problems with them,” Macco said. “School districts find out in very short order that the more debt and debt service and the more problems they have, the more burden they have, the more help they get. We literally reward poor financial performance and worse yet penalize a guy like Damian who runs a tight ship, so he gets less money from us because he doesn’t need as much help.”
Macco said state lawmakers are now trying to figure out “how do we fund schools in a smarter way.”
Though people may perceive the reason school districts hold referendums is because there is a lack of state funding for education, Macco said that is “a bunch of hooey” with half of the cost of successful referendums being transferred to taxpayers throughout the state in the funding formula.
“If Milwaukee does a $100 million school bonding referendum to build a new school and a swimming pool, half of that goes on your taxes,” he said.
Eric Vanden Heuvel, who was elected last month to the Green Bay Area Public School District Board of Education, was on hand for the listening session at UWGB when Macco suggested having only one school district per county to reduce costs.
“(There are) six or seven school districts just in Brown County, depending on how you count them,” Macco said. “Think about it, six or seven $200,000-a-year superintendents, six or seven purchasing departments, six or seven (human resources) departments, six or seven maintenance departments. You can’t run an organization that goofed up.”
Macco said the financial figures he has received from State Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) show anywhere from 52-54 percent of the total school budget goes into the classroom with the rest going toward “overhead.”
“You’re going to end up in Sweden somewhere if you’ve got that much dead wood…,” he said. “The people that are producing the output are the teachers, and the math that I did says if you had one district per county instead of six or seven, you could give every single teacher in the state of Wisconsin a $10,000 raise, and that makes a lot more sense to me.”
Macco, who chairs the Assembly’s Ways and Means Committee, said he favored the Joint Finance Committee taking out several items Republicans on that committee found last week to be non-budgetary.
“I think the Joint Finance Committee and us, working with our budget buddies, are coming up with a comprehensive budget that the state can live with,” he said. “And I suspect that will done by the end of June, and that we will submit that to the governor for his signature by that time.”
With Democratic Gov. Tony Evers dealing with Republican majorities in both houses of the State Legislature, Macco said he doesn’t believe lawmakers will get all the things they want in the budget, but “everybody’s going to get some of the things that we want.”
“We’ve got projected additional revenues of $1.8 billion, which is more than (former Republican Gov. Scott) Walker ever had in an increased budget,” Macco said. “So, I think it would very, very hard for Mr. Evers to veto that bill with that many good things in it.”