This is a letter to the editor published (April, 2011) in the Daily Jefferson County Union

Teacher Responds

Dear Editor, Daily Union:

This letter is in response to Cheryl Renz’s letter to the editor that was reported in the Daily Union on March 27-28. Cheryl Renz made some statements regarding my comments during Sen. Fitzgerald’s listening session that was held in Lake Mills earlier in the month. I would like to clarify some of her misunderstandings regarding my statements and position.

First and foremost, I never said those who opposed my position were illiterate “stupid” taxpayers. The comment I made was simply that some people believe that teachers make too much and they compare our salaries to those who do not have the same level of education attainment (degrees) that teachers do. My salary, as I stated that evening, is approximately $55,000. To earn that salary, I have taught 13 years, obtained a bachelors degree, master’s degree, and 30 additional graduate credits. When comparing my salary, please take some time to research those professions/careers that have the equivalent degrees as I do.

I do agree with Cheryl Renz when she states, “A teacher is no better than the local taxpayers (no matter what their occupation in life) who pay their salaries through real estate taxes for education.”

The latter part of this statement brings up a good segue into the reality of who pays whose salary.  Last year alone, I paid for the salaries of the following local employees: the local hardwood floor guy, everyone at Sentry, Pick ‘n Save, Jimmy John’s, Subway, Ace Hardware, Fort Atkinson Park and Recreation Department, School District of Fort Atkinson, Madison Area Technical College, Blackhawk Fitness, Langer’s Trim and Style, Salamone’s, BP, Powers Tire and Auto Service, Daily Jefferson County Union, U.S. Cellular, and the list goes on and on. These are just a fraction of the local businesses/employees I support.

Looking across the State of Wisconsin, we could add Charter Communications, We Energies, Wells Fargo, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee Brewers, and again the Iist goes on and on.

You see, we all "scratch each other’s backs." When I go to the grocery store and pay for my goods, I help pay the salaries of of the employees that work there. With my family losing $7000 to $8,000 of disposable income next year due to Gov. Walker’s budget-repair bill, I will not be spending that money at these local businesses. What do you suppose that will eventually do to all of the employees that work at these local businesses? So, for all of the taxpayers in Fort Atkinson, I thank you for paying my salary. On the flip side, you’re welcome, since I pay your salary, too.

I encourage every taxpayer to keep an itemized list of how you spend your money in the next year. After doing this, set those numbers next to your tax bill and compare all of the numbers. I think you’d be surprised how those numbers compare to what you pay for taxes in regards to the Fort Atkinson School District portion. The money you spend on education seems like such a large amount simply because it is summarized as one dollar value on your property tax bill. If you spread that dollar amount out like your other expenses, it wouldn’t seem like so much. Perhaps the State of Wisconsin needs to list everything tax dollars pay for and the corresponding amount we pay for these services on our property tax bill

Cheryl Renz also stated the following: “As I said in Sen. Fitzgerald’s listening session. I feel that I am a typical Fort Atkinson taxpayer. We are taxed out. Most taxpayers have to pay their own health insurance premiums, make their own deposits into their own retirement accounts (if they have any money left), pay their household bills, and the lion’s share of the public employees/teachers’ insurances, too.”

Yikes, Ms. Renz! Within the last day, I want you to know that I contacted your previous employer, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. How can you continue to drink from the well that you claim is going dry?  You definitely do not fall under the classification of your previous comments of “most taxpayers have to pay their own health insurance premiums, make their own deposits into their own retirement accounts.”

You see Cheryl, the 10 percent of your annual salary that was paid into your retirement account was made by the taxpayers of the State of Wisconsin. You only paid approximately $78 per month toward health insurance premiums at the time of your retirement; your employer picked up the remaining cost. You were able to convert almost 2,000 hours of sick leave into post-retirement insurance coverage. How long can you stay on that insurance plan? I know the answer to that, too.

That said, is the well only to be drunk from if it benefits you? Don’t get me wrong Ms. Renz, I think you earned those benefits and you knew what you would receive as a condition of employment at UW-Whitewater as a university service associate. Teachers knew what they were getting into, as well, regarding compensation. We knew we wouldn’t get rich, but that we would be offered a benefit package that would be offered a benefit package that would offset our salary.  Our WRS pension is a form of deferred compensation (pension plan) that was bargained for instead of taking salary increases. We also have bargained to pay less of a percentage of our insurance premiums at the trade off of a lower salary increase.

Lastly, remember when teachers, public employees, Planned Parenthood, NPR, and PBS crashed the stock market, wiped out half of our 401K’s, took trillions in TARP money, spilled oil in the Gulf of Mexico, gave themselves billions in bonuses and paid no taxes? Yeah, me neither    

 

Kevin Diece

Fort Atkinson