Flexibility needed in state spending caps

ONE SIZE FITS ALL can work for some things, but it is not a universal. It can mean just right for some, too small for others and too big for the rest.

That’s true of clothing and it’s also of the stateimposed revenue caps that local governments and school board continue to struggle under.

There can be no denying that, from a property tax rate standpoint, the revenue caps have done a good job over the years. Property owners statewide have seen the rates they pay stabilize over the years they have been in place. Gone are the days of double-digit tax rate increases and ballooning property tax bills.

The caps have done their job of reining in recklessly-spending school districts and units of local government that slammed their constituents year after year with wild tax increases.

But at the same time, they have unduly constricted school districts and units of local government that acted responsibly to control spending and taxes both before the caps were imposed and since.

Examples of such responsible school districts and local governments can be found locally, whether it’s the Plymouth School District, Sheboygan County or others.

The county has a record of holding the line on or lowering tax levies over the past decade that is unmatched by any of the state’s other 72 counties.

The Plymouth School District has historically been in the top 10 percent of the 424 districts statewide in terms of the lowest per-pupil costs.

Yet neither one is rewarded for their conservative fiscal approach and frugality by the inflexible, one-size-fits-all state revenue caps.

They are burdened with the same constraints as counties that have not reined in their spending in the recent or distant past, or school districts that continue to spend at per-pupil costs far above the state average.

Some kind of controls on local spending are a good thing and, for the sake of local taxpayers, probably should remain in place to keep those who need to be controlled.

But at the same time, as both County Administrator Adam Payne and Plymouth School Board President Mark Rhyan have pointed out numerous times, those districts and governments that have acted responsibly over the years should be rewarded for their diligence and efforts over many years with a bit more room under the caps.

Both the county and the school district have cut and controlled their spending over the years and are approaching the point where continuing to meet inflexible spending caps jeopardizes vital programs and services. That should not happen.

The governor and the Legislature need to acknowledge that those who have shown responsibility in spending should be treated differently than those who have been irresponsible. One-size-fits-all penalizes those who should be rewarded.

At issue:
State-imposed spending caps
Bottom line:
One size doesn’t fit all

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