RACINE — Property owners in the City of Racine will receive an insert along with their tax bills this year showing where their tax money goes, with a focus on voucher school funding.
The insert, included with all Racine property tax bills, shows how total property tax funds collected in the city are split, with $2.76 million going to Gateway Technical College, $55.84 million to the City of Racine, $11.7 million to Racine County and $34.35 million to Racine schools.
The flip side of the insert includes more detailed information about the Racine Unified School District tax levy, showing that of the $91.3 million total collected from taxpayers in all district municipalities, about one fifth will fund voucher-school students. That means that in the coming year, $72.6 million of that levy will go to Racine Unified, while $18.6 million will fund voucher students.
Angelina Cruz, president of Racine Educators United, and others with REU began working in June on a campaign to get voucher tax information included on tax bills. REU is the union that represents Racine Unified teachers and educational assistants.
Racine Mayor Cory Mason said he made the decision earlier this fall to include the insert with tax bills, which were mailed out Tuesday. Because there was no additional cost to the city to include the inserts, Mason did not go to the City Council for approval.
“We’re happy to provide residents with a clearer picture of how their tax dollars are being spent,” he said.
Mason said he received requests from several people, including Cruz, asking for more transparency on their tax bills.
“I think sometimes people think that because they come to City Hall to pay their taxes, that the city gets all of their tax dollars,” Mason said.
A REU petition asking Racine Unified to support state Assembly and Senate bills that would require voucher tax information on tax bills and asking the municipalities in the district to include inserts with the information with tax bills has garnered 800 signatures.
“Certainly Angelina brought the voucher issue forward, which I think is good to demonstrate to the public that a growing percentage of their tax dollars go toward voucher schools,” Mason said. “But it also came from people wanting to understand where their tax dollars went to the city versus anywhere else.”
Cruz said she is pleased that Racine included the information with its tax bills, and that REU officials hope to reach out to the other east-county municipalities about doing the same in the coming year.
Cruz believes that it’s morally and ethically wrong for public tax dollars to pay for students to attend private and parochial schools.
“If you choose to send your child to a private institution, you should not be using taxpayer money for it, in my opinion,” Cruz said.
She hopes that once property owners see how their money is spent, they will lobby legislators to better manage those funds.
“It’s not going to instantly change anything, but I think the important part is it’s going to start a conversation, hopefully, in the community about how our money is being spent,” Cruz said.
In the 2018-19 school year, voucher payments to private and parochial schools are $7,754 per full-time student for kindergarten through eighth grade students and $8,400 per full-time high school student.
Public school districts receive more than $9,000 per student in state aid and local taxes.
“We’re happy to provide residents with a clearer picture of how their tax dollars are being spent. I think sometimes people think that because they come to City Hall to pay their taxes, that the city gets all of their tax dollars.” Racine Mayor Cory Mason