MPS fast-tracks proposal to make ‘voucher tax’ transparent
A proposal that Milwaukee taxpayers be told on tax bills exactly how much of their money is going to private schools through the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program is on the fast track for school board consideration.
During a special MPS board meeting Saturday morning to discuss the district’s long-range master plan for buildings, board member Larry Miller asked that his “voucher tax” transparency proposal be discussed at a school board committee meeting Tuesday, rather than wait to be introduced at the board’s next regular meeting Sept. 22, and then be referred to committee for discussion at a later date.
“The urgency of this is there’s a huge tax burden on the community and it’s important for the community to be educated on this burden,” Miller told the board Saturday morning.
The tax that MPS must levy under state law to support low-income Milwaukee students enrolled in private schools under the choice program would have ranked just behind Milwaukee Area Technical College and ahead of the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District if it had been broken out, ranked, and displayed under the “Levy by Unit of Government” section of tax information sent to taxpayers in 2010, Miller said.
Miller wants the school board to ask the city comptroller to include the tax levy attributable to the school choice program on tax information sent to Milwaukee taxpayers with their 2011 bill.
By state law, MPS in fiscal 2011 was required to levy over $50 million in taxes to subsidize private schools in the Milwaukee school choice program, over which MPS has no authority or control, Miller’s resolution says.
This “irrational agreement” forces the district to levy what has come to be known as the “voucher tax,” and results in over 17% of the tax levy attributable to MPS going to non-MPS schools, Miller says.
The choice program, in place for 20 years, offers vouchers worth $6,442 for each low-income student in Milwaukee who wants to attend a private school, including a religious school, at taxpayer expense. About 20,000 students enrolled in the Milwaukee program in 2010-’11.
Due to a number of policy changes within the recently passed state budget, Milwaukee’s “voucher tax” is likely to rise significantly, and may exceed the state’s official estimate of $53.4 million in fiscal 2012, Miller said.
“Taxpayers in the city of Milwaukee have a right to transparent and open government, which includes clear and readily available information about where their property tax dollars are being sent,” Miller said in his resolution.
The board by a 7-0 vote Saturday agreed to suspend its rules and fast-track the proposal.