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Walker Signs Rural School Funding Bill

Plan Would Let Frugal Districts Raise Property Taxes Without Voter Approval


Low-spending school districts in Wisconsin will be allowed to increase property taxes without voter approval under a measure signed into law Monday by Gov. Scott Walker.

Right now, the most frugal school districts can spend up to $9,100 per student from a combination of state and local funding. The law Walker signed Monday increases that to $9,400.

The new law also increases what’s known as “sparsity aid” for rural school districts with low enrollment from $300 to $400. That change is projected to cost state government roughly $6.5 million next year.

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“It shouldn’t matter where you live, it shouldn’t matter how big or small your community is,” Walker said at a bill signing ceremony at Riverdale High School in Muscoda. “Every student in this state should have access to a great education.”

The plan Walker signed is remarkably similar to one he vetoed in September during the last state budget debate. Walker said in his veto message at the time he was vetoing the provision “because the result is a substantial increase in property tax capacity that school districts may exercise without voter input.”

Lawmakers changed the proposal slightly to prevent schools where referendums have failed in the past three years from taking advantage of the higher revenue limits.

Democrats argued the proposal didn’t do enough to make up for Walker’s school funding cuts in his earlier budgets.

Still, the plan received broad bipartisan support, passing the Assembly 90-30 and passing the Senate 31-1.