phrase "no taxation without representation" was coined in
a sermon given in Boston in 1750. By 1765 it had become the clarion
call fanning the flames of the American Revolution. The words became
synonymous with a revolt against an out-of-control government in
which the heavily-taxed colonists had no voice. When James Otis
later voiced his famous quote, "taxation without representation
is tyranny," who knew his words would be relevant in Ozaukee
County nearly 250 years later.
We all recently received our jaw-dropping 2008 state of Wisconsin
property tax bills. Most towns and villages kept their tax increases
low or they didnít increase at all. As an example, the town of
Cedarburg and Ozaukee County fought hard for the taxpayers and had
no appreciable tax increases, despite having to provide garbage
pick-up, snowplowing, street and road maintenance, a county-wide
court system, police protection, golf courses, social services,
public parks, and the list goes on.
Then along comes Milwaukee Area Technical College.
MATCís portion of your tax bill increased by more than twice
that of any other taxing entity. Taxpayers are responsible for
nearly 60 percent of revenues for MATC, compared with only 30
percent for the University of Wisconsin system. Ozaukee County
taxpayers pay considerably more in taxes to MATC than they do even
to Ozaukee County itself, and every year MATC jacks up the tax levy
by as much as 6 percent. Whatís worse, there is nothing we can do
There is nothing wrong with a technical college system. Just like
the other 15 technical colleges in the system, MATC has a rich
history of providing education and vocational training to young
students and incumbent workers, facilitating life-long learning and
hands-on trade skills. MATCís four campuses serve 55,000 students,
13,000 of whom are full time.
There is nothing wrong with paying taxes. In order for our
government to establish justice, insure domestic tranquility,
provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and
secure the blessings of liberty, We the People, must pay taxes.
Reckless spending wrong
There is something very wrong, however, when reckless and
irresponsible spending and the self-preserving decisions of
unaccountable technical school boards are foisted upon innocent
taxpayers who have no vote as to how their money is spent.
The technical college tax presents a problem as old as our
country - taxation without representation. MATCís board of
directors consists of nine appointed members (three of whom have to
be minorities for some reason), who, along with administrators,
prepare and approve their annual budget and sign contracts with
three different labor unions. The foxes are running the henhouse and
we have no right to vote these incestuous and unelected big spenders
on or off of their bureaucratic thrones.
Lavish salaries and outrageous benefits and pensions over the
past 17 years have resulted in the cost of an average education for
a full-time student at MATC skyrocketing from $1,775 in 1999 to
approximately $2,700 today - a 50 percent increase. The cost to
educate a student at MATC has risen to nearly $25,000, more than
Marquette University, and is estimated to reach $46,000 in the next
eight years. Tuition in the UW system covers 40 percent of its
educational cost, compared to only 11 percent at MATC.
The clearest measure of success of any technical college system
is the ability of its graduates to get jobs in the field they
graduate in. Yet, this is the case for only two-thirds of MATCís
graduates. Over two-thirds of MATCís students are enrolled in a
General Education or Business curriculum - hardly the sort of
education that fits with the core mission of a technical college. In
2005, MATC graduated only 14 welders.
No bureaucracy will ever downsize itself, and without
accountability to voters, what is to stop MATC from nestling
themselves even deeper into the pockets of Ozaukee County taxpayers?
According to past MATC board member William Hughes, more than 90
percent of MATCís budget goes to payroll, benefits and pensions.
Past board member Mark Malerle admitted that he supports the teacherís
unions and "continues to work for them." This explains a
lot. When special interests have their way, taxpayers have to pay.
Does MATC really need 81 administrators and 723 staff? Thatís
1.3 staff for each of its 608 instructors. Stop by a local MATC
campus some day and walk the empty halls. Most of the rooms are not
used and the buildings are vacant except for staff, administrators,
and instructors, many of whom have little to do.
Two wage hikes per year
Board-approved MATC spending has given its faculty two wage
increases per year - an annual cost of living increase of 2.9
percent plus a labor step increase of 3 percent to 5 percent -
regardless of performance. Even the bad teachers - and there are
plenty - are guaranteed by contract to move up the pay rung as
surely as weíll go to jail for not paying our taxes. The average
annual salary of faculty members is more than $90,000, with the top
tier making an average of nearly $138,000 - some of the highest paid
technical college faculty in the nation. Pile on extremely generous
sick leave and vacation policies, 12 paid holidays, and the fact
that they only have to work less than 1/3 of the calendar year and
youíll understand why your taxes keep going up.
It gets worse. MATC employees are tenured after three years, and
if they work six out of eight years, can take an entire year off
with pay! All full-time teachers, operational employees, and staff
receive Cadillac health care you and I can only dream about - with
100 percent of premiums paid by you. They can even get health care
and pensions after they retire and they contribute nothing.
Seceding from the MATC taxing district is like a state trying to
secede from the Union. When Germantown recently tried to move to the
nearby Moraine Park Technical College District, the Wisconsin
Technical College System Board voted 12-0 to deny their request. No
surprise there, considering the $5.7 million Germantown residents
pump into the MATC system. It seems that the residents of Ozaukee
County and Germantown havenít fled far enough from the wasteful
tax swamp known as the Milwaukee Area Technical College District.
MATCís bloated and out-of-control spending shoveled upon the
shoulders of hard-working taxpayers who do not have a voice in how
their taxes are spent is nothing short of tyranny. Instead of
addressing the problem, the bureaucrats on the MATC and WTCS boards
merely cater to the whims of the unions and perpetuate the problem.
Like clockwork, MATC gift-wraps for itself increasingly higher and
better levels of wages, pensions, health care packages, and fringe
If Thomas Jefferson thought taxation without representation was
bad, he should see how it is with representation. The American
taxpayer is losing the fight against high taxes, deficit spending,
and self-serving bureaucracies at the federal and state levels, even
when armed with the right to vote. Without that right, Ozaukee
County taxpayers are helpless against tyranny at even the local
Gary Wickert is an author, trial lawyer, and town of Cedarburg
supervisor, who lives with his wife and two sons. He can be reached
His column is available online at www.gmtoday.com/milwaukeetoday/editorials/wickert.asp