'MPS struggles to get by:' Voters to decide on referendum to increase revenue limit to $87M

MILWAUKEE -- During the April 7 spring election, voters will be asked to decide whether Milwaukee Public Schools' revenue limit can be increased through property taxes over a four-year span. The multi-million dollar referendum was discussed during a community forum at Good City Brewing Tuesday evening, Feb. 25, and the discussion didn't focus on whether the referendum is a good or bad idea, but rather, the underlying facts as to why it was proposed.

Roughly 100 people took part in the discussion about the issues facing MPS. Put on by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Milwaukee Public Radio, and the Zeidler Group, the event was intended to allow for open discussion of people's personal experiences and concerns related to MPS.

Rob Henken

"Progress has been made, but essentially, the crux of the matter is, MPS struggles to get by every year just to accommodate its basic costs to continue," said Rob Henken, Wisconsin Policy Forum president.

The Wisconsin Policy Forum provided perspective and context to the referendum request, like offering competitive teacher pay to cover the educational needs of students, especially those in poverty, not covered by state or federal funding.

"One of the drivers for this referendum is a desire to do more than just continue, but to actually invest in some aspirational needs," said Henken.

Anne Chapman

"In essence, to meet the needs of students that are higher cost, they have to pull from the general education sources that are meant to cover the general costs for all the students," said Anne Chapman, education researcher with the Wisconsin Policy Forum.

If the referendum is approved, there would be a four-year phase-in revenue limit increase totaling $87 million, coming to about a $160 increase per $100,000 of assessed property.

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