Jefferson Davis is a longtime resident of Menomonee Falls. He is the proud parent of two wonderful boys. He enjoys singing, volunteering, reading, gardening, politics, antiques, history, guitar, violin, piano, officiating, helping neighbors and yard work. He served as Village President of Menomonee Falls from 2003-05. He is a member of Northbrook Church and serves on the Advisory Council for the Salvation Army Rehabilitation Center. He is an independent registered representative practicing in the areas of insurance, investments and retirement.
Vanguard Updates and Follow ups
This week's posting will focus on Public Employee Benefit Costs.
Depending on how much time this posting takes, we may push that off until next week because of the numerous updates and follow ups that appear below.
Our community is very fortunate to have some 200 very good public servants who have chosen to spend all or a part of their professional career with the Village of Menomonee Falls. These are the people that serve us at the library, protect our community, work with businesses, plow the snow, maintain the park system and implement public policy that affects all of us.
Of course, as is with any organization, there are some public servants that don't do a good job. They're cranky, defensive, argumentative, have a sense of entitlement, unappreciative and can be down right rude. Everyone has experienced this with a public servant at one time or another.
This posting will not focus on public service employees and their job performance.
This posting will only focus on Public Employee Benefit Costs.
Before we get there however, we have a lot of catching up to do.
School Superintendent Refuses to Confirm Administrator Issue at High School
Mark Belling, WISN AM 1130 Talk Show Host, broke a story several weeks ago about the questionable behavior of a veteran administrator at the high school toward a female student during the 2007-08 school year.
The parents of the student ultimately had to contact Mark Belling and the school superintendent about the issue because the high school principal did not acknowledge the parents or their concern.
For more information about this issue, visit our Double Dipping Public Employee Contracts posting from last week (http://blogs.menomoneefallsnow.com/the_vanguard/archive/2008/09/14/double-dipping-public-employee-contracts-is-the-end-near-for-our-sake-let-s-hope-so.aspx) and scroll down to the school superintendent section.
The Vanguard has been asking the school superintendent for several weeks now to confirm the veteran administrator's name out of public concern and has yet to hear from the school superintendent.
We, therefore, will be submitting an Open Records Request to the school superintendent of the veteran administrator and his wife for what has been done with their issues involving students from last year. We will let you know the results.
School District Considers Closing an Elementary School and Possibly Central Office With Projected Enrollment Decline
Yes, you read that correctly.
The School District is considering closing an elementary school and possibly Central Office (http://www.menomoneefallsnow.com/story/index.aspx?id=792412) as early as 2010-11 which is only a little over a year away due to a steep decline in enrollment.
The District has a history with enrollment projections since the 60's and 70's when school after school (15 +/- at its peak) was being built only having to close school after school 10-15 years later in the 80's due to an enrollment drop from a peak of nearly 9,000 students in the mid to late 70's to a low of a little over 3,200 in the mid to late 80's (figures available at Central Office).
The District had 4,634 students (including the new K-4 Program) for the 2007-08 school year and that number is projected to be down by nearly 300 students in 2012-13 to 4,372.
Take away the K-4 Kindergarten Program (about 200 students+/-) that was recently implemented and the decrease in enrollment would be even more staggering putting the District below the 2001-02 enrollment of 4,224. K-4 students are counted as 1 per student for enrollment purposes and .6 per student for state aid purposes.
The Vanguard remembers the $19.8 million, which actually turned out to be $32 million when the full details were disclosed, failed referendum (60%-40%) of February of 2004 when the District absolutely insisted that a new elementary school (about $10 million) was essential on the east central side of the Village.
The District Attorney of Waukesha County later found numerous legal and ethical violations within the District involving the failed referendum (http://www.jsonline.com/story/index.aspx?id=208026&format=print).
Imagine if the elementary school had actually been built in 2004 and where the community would be today with the imminent possibility of having to close an elementary school and maybe Central Office?
The District blames birth rates and the lack of housing starts for the projected decline in enrollment.
Those things haven't really changed much in the last 48 months which can only lead to one conclusion, the District projections and marketing efforts may have been purposely skewed to promote the failed referendum of 2004.
Thank goodness the voters had the insight to reject that referendum in 2004.
Support the Arts
Some really neat things are starting to happen in downtown Menomonee Falls within the Arts Community.
Thanks to the efforts of some tireless volunteers and passionate artists, the downtown is starting to come alive with an idea that was launched over 5 years ago when the community came together for a Fine Arts Initiative at Village Hall.
The Falls is blessed to have Patio Players and Accompany of Kids for the performing arts.
Art Guild of Menomonee Falls (www.artguildmf.org, firstname.lastname@example.org, 414-719-6613) is bustling with activity, programs and classes for art interests of all ages in the downtown. They have regular meetings and welcome new members and ideas. How refreshing to have an organization that truly promotes the fine qualities of Menomonee Falls without minding who gets the credit.
A recent show, Quick Art in the Park, was held at Mill Pond and Lime Kiln Park on August 17th from 12:00-4:00 P.M. Many artists attended showing their work accompanied by snacks, light drinks and string instruments from Falls Baptist Academy.
What a beautiful celebration of incredibly talented people in a perfect setting on the Menomonee River with the unique dalles rock formations, the lime kilns and the quarry in a wooded setting with many plant species and wildlife.
The Art Guild has many activities planned on their website (www.artguildmf.org) including the Scarecrow Contest on October 9th.
Stanford Glass, N88 W16475 Main St., offers classes for Stained Glass at the beginning, intermediate and advanced levels in the historic Adam Ploss building from 1879. Give them a call for more details at 255-3480.
Stanford Art Gallery and Studios offers metal art, furniture art, oil paintings, photo art, accessories, jewelry, baskets, etc located in the lower level of Stanford Glass on Main Street.
John Harbors on Main Street and Nino's Bakery offer meeting space and a gathering place for many of the artists.
Purloin Art Studio is also located in the immediate area.
The Falls has needed this for many years and it's nice to see it coming to fruition. There is no limit how far this can go as long as individuals don't mind who gets the credit.
Village Clerk's Office Refuses to Respond to Potential Voter Fraud
The Vanguard has been asking the Village Clerk's Office basic election questions in anticipation of documented voter fraud in Menomonee Falls from 2004 and potential voter fraud in 2008 for the last 3-4 weeks.
The Clerk's Office, through the Village Manager's Office, has publicly stated they are "...too busy" to respond to such questions (click here to see full report http://blogs.menomoneefallsnow.com/the_vanguard/archive/2008/09/05/protecting-against-voter-fraud-in-menomonee-falls.aspx).
The Village Clerk's Office is responsible for reporting voter fraud to the District Attorney and for being in compliance with the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA) to verify voter registration.
There are numerous findings throughout the area of repeated voter fraud requiring the Attorney General's Office to file a lawsuit against the Government Accountability Board for not requiring local clerk offices to enforce HAVA in time for the 2008 November Election.
The Vanguard is simply asking the Clerk's Office if they have had any type of voter fraud and if they have reported it to the DA's Office along with verifying voter registration as is required by federal law as part of HAVA.
We will continue to ask the Clerk's Office questions in hopes of having a legal election in Menomonee Falls in time for the November 2008 Election.
You may contact the Clerk's Office at 262-532-4210 or email@example.com with questions.
Knodl Campaign Brochure Complaint DA Investigation Continues
The investigation continues with the Waukesha DA Office saying he wants to get this done before the November 2008 Election (scroll down to "Houston We Have a Problem" http://blogs.menomoneefallsnow.com/the_vanguard/archive/2008/09/14/double-dipping-public-employee-contracts-is-the-end-near-for-our-sake-let-s-hope-so.aspx).
Taxpayers Asked to "Bailout" Village Board on $42 Million Municipal Facilities Fund
We have written extensively about the boondoggle of the Village Board (http://blogs.menomoneefallsnow.com/the_vanguard/archive/tags/garbage+debate/default.aspx) and the $42 million Municipal Facilities Fund that we were told was all paid for without any money from taxpayers, but instead was going to be paid for by "tipping fees" from Waste Management for having a dump in our backyard.
Not only have the taxpayers been paying for this fund to the tune of about $1.2 million for many years, they are now being asked to pick up the $17 million Municipal Facilities Fund shortfall that will hit the tax rolls in 2016, if not sooner, costing the average homeowner between $800-$900 in new taxes through 2022.
Like the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mess (http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=aSKSoiNbnQY0), someone has to take responsibility for the unfulfilled promises of the Village Board when they knew ahead of time they could not keep their word.
Now that the truth is out in the public, The Vanguard, is simply asking the Village Board for the following:
Have our garbage picked for free instead of being assessed $1.2 million a year for the $85.00, 3% annually indexed per household garbage tax. Let's keep that $1.2 million in the pockets of the homeowners in Menomonee Falls for our local economy each year over the next 15 years.
Have the Village Board pay the $42 million Municipal Facilities Fund as originally promised without any money from the taxpayers through the tipping fees from Waste Management. Waste Management (www.wm.com) grossed over $13 billion in 2007 with a net profit of over $1.16 billion and has a market cap of $17.9 billion.
Release the records for the $42 million Municipal Facilities Fund for 2006-2008.
Explore the methane gas rights of Waste Management from the dump to include a dividend to the Village Board or use the gas to heat Village Facilities as has been done in Wisconsin Rapids (http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0EIN/is_/ai_n13779236), New York (http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9502E0DA1139F936A25756C0A962958260&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=all), South Carolina ( http://www.thetandd.com/articles/2008/03/08/news/12994757.txt), Montreal (http://www.wm.com/WM/ThinkGreen/RE/saintesophie.asp) and Spartanburg ( http://www.wm.com/WM/ThinkGreen/RE/palmetto.asp).
Waste Management is spending $400 million nationwide for methane gas plants for local communities (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/19459535/).
Contact your Village Board (http://www.menomonee-falls.org/index.asp?nid=292) to let them know what you want done with the $1.2 million, $85 per household annual garbage tax, the $42 million Municipal Facilities Fund and the methane gas rights of the dump.
$17 Million Paid to the City of Milwaukee/MMSD in User Charges and Taxes/Capital Charges Since 2006 from Falls Taxpayers
The Village Manager wants to charge for updates to existing Village documents The Vanguard has been talking to the Village Manager about and requesting copies of for over a year now involving MMSD.
The Vanguard will be doing an extensive posting in the near future on the MMSD/Menomonee Falls relationship that hasn't been covered by the local newspapers that will put this matter into a totally different perspective costing some of the taxpayers in Menomonee Falls millions of dollars over the last 11 years.
Not wanting to be charged for existing documents, The Vanguard was able to get what was requested of the Village Manager in seconds through another source for free.
Here's a sampling of what to expect in our posting on the MMSD/Menomonee Falls relationship:
Taxpayers have paid $12.8 million to MMSD for User Charges (treatment of waste) since 1997, $3.9 million 2006-08.
Taxpayers have paid $36.05 million to MMSD for Capital Charges (taxes based on a portion of home values) since 1997, $13.05 million 2006-08.
Taxpayers will have paid $36 million for total settlement costs to MMSD by 2012 as a result of ending the Sewer Wars lead by Joe Greco, Jeff Steliga and Mike McDonald.
So far, that's almost $85 million over 11 years from the taxpayers of Menomonee Falls to the City of Milwaukee and MMSD that we will never see again.
Menomonee Falls is serviced by Sussex, Brookfield and Milwaukee along with private septic systems.
Village Attorney's wife gets a nearly $1 million contract with MMSD shortly after Joe Greco leaves office in 2003.
Joe Greco, Jeff Steliga and Mike McDonald cut a private deal with Mayor Norquist ending the FLOW (Fair Liquidation of Waste) Coalition in 1996-97.
The Vanguard believes that $85 million would go a long way to build our own facility, expand the service areas to Sussex and Brookfield as well eliminating the constant threat of lawsuits from the DNR and environmental groups because of the failures of the deep tunnel project.
Stay tuned, what you will learn may be hazardous to what your elected officials have wanted you to believe all of these years.
Police Chief and Apparent Failed Computer Programs
We're still waiting for the police chief to answer our questions about the apparent failure of two costly computer programs (The Phoenix and The Enforcer) purchased by the taxpayers at the request of the former police chief in 2003-04.
These programs have apparently caused a number of headaches for personnel in the department.
We will keep you posted.
Big Pig Gig Review
Gorgeous weather was the mainstay of the Big Pig Gig over the weekend.
Folks came to eat, hear music, walk the grounds and hang out.
Anything that would get Falls residents and those from out of town to come and spend money should be supported.
Receiving a $40,000 taxpayer grant from the State of Wisconsin, the Menomonee Falls Chamber of Commerce set out to establish an annual event in Menomonee Falls in 2007.
The Vanguard has sent an email to the Chamber as a follow up to the event and will report on the results in a future posting.
The Chamber, in promoting the event to many local organizations for help and volunteers, used numbers like 100,000 anticipated visitors, 15-20,000 barbecue followers from all over the United States and $20-$30 an hour paid to groups who had volunteers work the event.
It is extremely unlikely that 100,000 people came either year.
Although estimating crowds is difficult, a much more realistic number might be 5,000-10,000? Maybe 15,000?
Anyone who has been to the State Fair or Summerfest knows what 75,000-100,000 people looks like on any given day.
The logistics of accommodating 75,000-100,000 people in a very small area like Village Park would have been nearly impossible.
Let's not have the Circus Parade or July 3rd Lakefront Fireworks exaggeration syndrome kick in where they claimed for years that 1,000,000 people showed up for those events.
Word of long lines at food vendors existed again this year with 25% going to the Chamber for sales tax and fees along with an additional upward of $1,000 for electricity, tents, signage, chairs and tables. Some vendors did well and others didn't do well at all. The shuttle parking lots were not that busy at all throughout the day. Some people informed vendors they ate before they came to the event this year because they did not want to wait in long lines like they did the year before.
The event lost money in its first year and one volunteer group ending up receiving a little over $300 for their time when they canceled one of their fundraisers hoping to make a lot more money from the Big Pig Gig. What surprised the group even more was the check came from the Greater Menomonee Falls Foundation and not the Chamber due to the loss of money. The Vanguard is looking into this too.
Falls Cable Access Finally Files Federal 990 Tax Returns and Shows an Operating Loss of ($52,886) in 2007
The Vanguard recently did an in depth review of Falls Cable Access (http://blogs.menomoneefallsnow.com/the_vanguard/archive/tags/Falls+Cable+Access/default.aspx) and found some very interesting information to share with the taxpayers who pay cable access fees (taxes) to Falls Cable Access for the last 15 years through Time Warner.
The review is worth the read because so often the Village Board creates something and then doesn't follow up with what they created asking the taxpayers to once again fund something without oversight or accountability.
Money was being paid to individuals apparently without W-2's or 1099's being issued for income tax reporting purposes with no contractual agreements for employees.
Corporate Tax Returns weren't being filed by the Corporation on over $1,000,000 in receipts.
Government studios were apparently being used for personal and business use by certain members of the organization.
The Cable Access Board hadn't met in some 8 years according to one Board Member.
The Village Board and Village Manager weren't overseeing any of the operations of the organization required by Village Ordinance.
Citizen Programs were being blocked for full broadcast purposes on the cable access channel which is in violation of the channel's policy and the Village Ordinance.
The director was acting in an inappropriate way toward citizens at many public events for retribution and personal purposes.
After years of being required by the IRS to file 990 Tax Returns since their inception in 1992 and having not done so, Falls Cable Access finally files their 2005 and 2006 990 Tax Returns in November of 2007 with the Falls Cable Access Director signing the returns.
Falls Cable Access is a 501(c) 3 private non-profit corporation and is required by federal law to file their returns by May 15th of each year.
Their 2007 return was filed on time in May of 2008 and can be viewed along with the 2005 and 2006 returns for free by logging in to www.guidestar.com.
Thank goodness Time Warner worked out an agreement with the Village Board this past year to bypass Falls Cable Access for the future requiring Falls Cable Access to submit a budget to the Village Board in order to get funding instead of just being given a blank check without any oversight or accountability of the taxpayer's money by the Village Board.
Once the Guidestar website is visited, readers will find some of the following information as very interesting about Falls Cable Access:
Part time cable access director and member of the Cable Access Board of Directors had a salary of $41,800 in '05, $48,000 in '06 and $52,000 in '07 for a 20% increase in 3 years or nearly 7% a year when the position was done by volunteers in the past.
Bank service fees of $340 for 2005 and 2007 for purposes that aren't disclosed.
Penalties of $750 in '07 for undisclosed purposes.
$18,000 of the taxpayers money for the press box at the high school in '07.
Approximately $200,000 has been spent on various equipment pieces since January of '03 with the vast majority of those expenses occurring since 2005.
Consultant fees of $1,750 in '07.
Website fee of $3,000 in '07.
Interest payments on bank accounts of $11,924 in '05, $21,000 in '06 and $25,814 in '07.
Cash balance on hand of $587,691 in '05, $628,256 in '06 and $551,857 in '07.
Municipal Judge Mike Hurt, who had to resign from office in 2007 due to Wisconsin Supreme Court disciplinary actions for legal, ethical, financial and probationary violations, is listed as a Board of Director on the 2005 and 2006 Tax Returns.
Legal fees of $6,368 in '05 and $1,012 in '06.
Accounting fees of $3,164 in '05, $6,100 in '06 and $8,583 in '07.
Taxpayer receipts of $115,534 in '05, $120,120 in '06 and $65,384 in '07*.
Operating expenses of $93,313 in '05, $95,270 in '06 and $144,000 in '07 an increase of 34%.
Payroll taxes are finally being paid with W-2's and or 1099's being issued for income tax reporting purposes.
Travel costs of $1,012 in '07, $338 in '06 and $2,306 in '05.
No apparent audits of the corporation's financials have been done.
*Time Warner, through Menomonee Falls Village Board, no longer sends an open check to Falls Cable Access in '07. Falls Cable Access has to submit a budget to Village Manager.
The Village has still not adopted a policy for what to do with the taxpayer surplus account of $551,000 at the end of '07 for Falls Cable Access.
Most governmental entities require the money to be returned at the end of each year or it is used for the next year without additional appropriations.
Let your Village Board know if you want your money ($551,000) back instead of letting Falls Cable Access have an open check book (http://www.menomonee-falls.org/index.asp?nid=292).
The part time Cable Access Director also has a part time contract with the Menomonee Falls School District of somewhere in the neighborhood of $2,500 - $3,000 a month for a total part time job salary of nearly $90,000 from the taxpayers of Menomonee Falls.
The $150,000 improvement to the studio at the high school paid for by the taxpayers with cable access fees in 2006-07 is not clearly disclosed on these returns if at all.
It is also unclear if these improvements were put out for bids as is required or just handed out to those contractors and vendors of choice.
We will keep you posted.
Falls Fest Files Federal 990 Tax Returns
Falls Fest filed their 2007 Federal 990 Tax Return by the May 15th deadline which is required by federal law for 501(c) 3 private non-profit corporations. Normally Falls Fest is late with their returns as has been the case in 4 out of the last 6 years.
To review an in depth look at Falls Fest, which is contrary to what has been reported and what the community has been lead to believe for years about this organization, visit our blog for more information (http://blogs.menomoneefallsnow.com/the_vanguard/archive/tags/falls+fest/default.aspx).
The tax returns from Falls Fest are also available at www.guidestar.com for your personal review.
The 2007 return reveals some interesting details that we believe will be of interest:
$175,851 in receipts of which $18,000 came from the taxpayers through the Chamber for renting the Kohler Zahn House that was given to Falls Fest Board Members in 1997 by themselves as Village Board Members for approximately $400,000 requiring a repayment plan to the taxpayers that has never been paid back in 10 years.
Falls Fest event costs of $126,269 which many have questioned for years.
$25,109 in community donations.
Cash on hand of about $23,000 down from about $33,000 from the year before.
$7,029 in "doubtful accounts".
A mortgage for the Marcus Theater on Main Street of nearly $230,000.
Return is signed by Village Trustee and Falls Fest Treasurer Jeff Steliga and former Village President and Falls Fest President Bob Steliga as the accounting firm that completed the return.
Value of Marcus Theater on Main Street at $505,000 when it was assessed at nearly $1,000,000 just five years ago before Falls Fest used their positions on the Village Board to get the theater for $250,000 in exchange for getting Village Board votes to approve 4 new screens for Marcus at their new complex near Applebee's in 2003.
There is no disclosure of event or mortgage expenses which is normally done by all non-profit organizations on their returns each year as required by law.
The Marcus Theater on Main Street has cost Falls Fest $21,142 in '04, $32,011 in '05 and Falls Fest has not disclosed the '03, '06 and '07 theater costs on their returns which is normally required by federal law to do so.
Enough for Now
We will wait until next week for Public Employee Benefit Costs.
You are welcome to share your comments below.
Thanks for reading The Vanguard.
With the competition being what it is for your time, we appreciate you giving us a look.
Have a great week.