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State aid may decrease for Janesville School District


State general aid to the Janesville School District could drop by as much as $2.3 million in the 2018-19 school year, according to state data.

But there’s no need to panic because those numbers are tentative and only a piece of a larger financial puzzle, said Janesville School District Chief Financial Officer Keith Pennington.

About half of Wisconsin’s schools will receive more general aid than they did last year, according to a news release from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.

Statewide, general aid to schools is $4.66 billion, a $72.75 million increase from last year, according to the news release.

General aid is determined by a complex formula that considers property values, enrollment and spending.

Some school districts, such as Middleton, get very little general aid because of their valuable tax bases.

For the Janesville School District, general aid is a little bit more than 80 percent of all the state aid the district gets, Pennington said.

It’s difficult to determine how changes in general aid, also known as equalization aid, will affect an overall budget.

Wisconsin school districts operate under state-imposed revenue limits, which are adjusted annually. If one category of income for a school district goes up, other income might have to go down to keep the district below its revenue limit.

“Equalization aid by itself could go up or down, and after the complete revenue limits are released, our overall funding could go up or down,” Pennington explained in an email. “Many times, aid goes down and tax levies go up and vice versa.”

The actual aid amounts each district will receive aren’t announced until Oct. 15.

“The total can, and has in the past, change by hundreds of thousands of dollars either way,” Pennington said. “Even if the information from our district did not change, our equalization aid and levy could change due to changes by other districts.”

In the Edgerton School District, the estimates indicate general aid would go up 6 percent, or $638,777, for a total of $11.28 million, said Tad Wehner, finance director for the school district.

But because of revenue limits, that doesn’t mean the school district would have $638,777 more to use toward operations, staffing and programming, Wehner said.

The general aid money counts against the district’s revenue limit.

More money from the state means the district probably wouldn’t be allowed to collect as much in property taxes, Wehner said.

Equalization aid is the largest allocation made to schools by the state, Wehner said.

The Williams Bay School District will receive an estimated 40 percent increase in aid, but because of the district’s property base and size, it received very little aid to begin with. The 40 percent increase is the equivalent of $15,020, bringing the school’s aid to $52,490.

Other local districts that could get less aid include Clinton, Delavan-Darien, Beloit Turner, Elkhorn, Evansville and Milton.

Business managers in the Clinton and Delavan-Darien school districts said they expected the decreases.

Each district is forecast to receive about 4 percent less.

About 45 percent of funding for Wisconsin public schools comes from the state.

Another 7 percent comes from the federal government, and about 48 percent is from local property taxes.

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Auto repair garage on riverfront to move


More riverfront property in Janesville’s downtown could be groomed for redevelopment after a longtime automotive garage moves to a new shop planned for the west side.

Bart Arnold, owner of Bee Line Wheel Alignment, said his automotive repair business as early as November will vacate the shop that’s operated for decades at 202 S. Water St. on the Rock River’s east shore.

Arnold in February sold the 8,400-square-foot garage and the 1/3- acre lot it sits on. Arnold said Bee Line plans to break ground this week on a 7,600-square-foot shop on a lot at 2317 W. Court St., and he hopes to move by November.

Arnold said he has had limited contact with the property’s buyer, a development firm whose owners have ties to Janesville architectural firm Angus-Young Associates.

After Bee Line vacates the shop later this year, Arnold expects the new owners to clear the property for redevelopment.

“They flat-out said that it (the Bee Line building) is going to be demolished,” Arnold said.

Rock County Register of Deeds property transfer records show Creative Business Developers LLC bought the Bee Line property in February for $430,000.

Creative Business Developers is a development group operated by former Angus-Young principal Jeffrey Hazekamp, according to city property tax records. Creative Business Developers owns a 1-acre, vacant lot along the riverfront just north of the Bee Line property, according to city records.

Angus-Young Associates business administrator Laura Fox confirmed Hazekamp, who she said remains an Angus-Young affiliate, and Angus-Young President Joseph Stadelman were involved in the Bee Line property purchase through a development group they run together.

Fox said she could not comment further. Stadelman and Hazekamp were not immediately available for comment Monday afternoon.

City Planning Director Duane Cherek said the new owners would demolish the Bee Line building, a structure city property records indicate was built in about 1930. Cherek said Bee Line already has city approval to build a new shop on a parcel Arnold bought on West Court Street just east of Daniels Sentry.

Cherek said city planners have not yet seen “post-demolition” plans for redevelopment of the property on South Water Street.

The Bee Line property and the 1-acre property just north are among only a few swaths on the east riverfront between Court and Racine streets the city doesn’t own.

The city earlier this year spent $500,000 to buy the former Mercy Options building at 20 E. Court St., another riverfront property. City Economic Development Director Gale Price said the city is considering how it will demolish the Mercy Options building to clear the property.

One side of it is adjacent to the river wall along the Rock River, he said.

Price said his department is working with the Bee Line lot’s new owners on potential cleanup the site might need after years as an auto service garage. Price said he has heard no specific plans for redevelopment of the property.

The ARISE downtown development plan pegs the entire stretch of riverfront from Court Street to the Hedberg Public Library as a key redevelopment zone.

Cherek said he believes Hazekamp and Stadelman clearing the Bee Line property would mesh with the city’s long-term plans along the riverfront.

Cherek said it would help ready the city to move forward with part of its vision for the ARISE riverfront revitalization: creation of a walkable riverfront.

“It provides now an opportunity to look at options on more than a single piece of property. There’s now an assemblage of property between what the city owns and what those entities from Angus-Young and their LLC own.

“No matter what type of redevelopment occurs between Court Street and Hedberg library, a priority (city) project is to establish a river walk along the east side of the Rock River to essentially connect the Racine Street corridor to Court Street and, more specifically, JPAC and the library to the town square. It’s one of the principal parts of the ARISE plan,” Cherek said.

Arnold said the city expressed interest in buying the Bee Line property in 2015. At that time, Arnold had just taken over Bee Line after being an employee there for years.

“I told them I thought it would be a risk for me to move Bee Line right then. I told them they’d have to wait,” he said.

Arnold was approached in fall 2017 by an agent, who Arnold said represented an undisclosed group that sought to buy the Bee Line property.

He said Hazekamp and Stadelman’s group assumed ownership when the sale closed.

He said Bee Line’s move to the west side is an “exciting new chapter.”

Although Bee Line has a deadline of early next year to vacate the South Water Street location, Arnold said he believes moving out this fall is “doable.”

Arnold said he’s well aware of the city’s interest in redevelopment of the riverfront corridor, including the Bee Line property.

“The city’s been trying to buy land along here, including this place, for many, many years,” he said.

Rocky under Trump, US-Mexico relations to be tested under President Lopez Obrador


The U.S.-Mexico relationship could change dramatically under Mexican President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who appears ready to put less of an emphasis on relations with the U.S. than his country’s other recent leaders and less afraid of angering his counterparts north of the border.

Lopez Obrador, who easily won the presidency in Sunday’s election and will take office in December, has rattled observers in Washington who are unsure how he will conduct himself and Mexico’s foreign affairs.

The 64-year-old former mayor of Mexico City, a veteran leftist, has long favored a future for Mexico that is less dependent on the United States—a stark departure from numerous recent Mexican leaders who worked hand in glove with their American counterparts. His distrust of the United States is shaped in part by his biography and in part by his read on history.

The night of President Donald Trump’s election in 2016, Lopez Obrador wrote a message to his fellow Mexican citizens, urging them not to worry about the impact of Trump’s policies south of the Rio Grande.

“We must not forget that Mexico, by the effort and sacrifice of the fathers of our country, is a free, independent and sovereign country, not a colony, nor a protectorate,” he wrote. “It does not depend on any foreign government.”

Those patriotic musings, which he published last year in a book of essays called “Oye Trump” (Listen, Trump), offer insight into how Lopez Obrador might regard Mexico’s closest neighbor after he is sworn in Dec. 1.

“There are a lot of unanswered questions,” said Earl Anthony Wayne, a fellow at the nonpartisan Wilson Center think tank in Washington and former U.S. ambassador to Mexico.

Those include how the new president would handle renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement; cooperation with the U.S. on drug-trafficking and immigration; and the united front against rogue countries like Venezuela.

“Mexican presidents have long seen their country’s future tied to the U.S., but Lopez Obrador is more skeptical,” said Andrew Selee, president of the Migration Policy Institute and the author of a recent book about U.S.-Mexico relations. “I don’t think he’s anti-American. But I think he’s distrustful of the U.S. and less invested in deepening ties with the U.S.”

Trump, who has used harsh language to describe Mexicans, telephoned Lopez Obrador on Monday to congratulate him. They spoke for half an hour, talking about trade and border security, both men’s offices said.

The State Department also reached out, saying his election demonstrated “the Mexican people’s commitment to democratic values.”

“The United States and Mexico share a lasting friendship based on strong economic, cultural and historical ties that bind our nations,” spokeswoman Heather Nauert said. The United States, she added, “looks forward to deepening our vibrant partnership.”

His opponents often sought to portray Lopez Obrador as a dyed-in-the-wool leftist in the mold of Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez or the Castros of Cuba. In reality, Lopez Obrador is more pragmatic than the more hardcore ideologues. He advocates redistribution of wealth, but he also values Mexico’s entrepreneur class and industries like petroleum and gas exploitation.

If recent history is any indication, the first months of Lopez Obrador’s government are likely to see a Mexican cold shoulder toward the United States. When Enrique Pena Nieto was elected in 2012 to replace U.S.-friendly Felipe Calderon, he ended many of the relationships with the U.S. that allowed U.S. and Mexican officials to work shoulder to shoulder on security and other issues.

Only after a year or so did Pena Nieto re-establish those ties. And then, after Trump was elected, the Mexican government struggled to maintain a relationship despite the insults and harsh rhetoric coming from the White House.

That was accomplished largely through a personal friendship between Mexican Foreign Secretary Luis Videgaray and Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner.

Lopez Obrador does not share such friendships with Trump’s inner circle. And that could have an impact on numerous aspects of the bilateral relationship, including the renegotiation of NAFTA.

“The Pena Nieto administration would go to great lengths to save NAFTA,” Selee said. “If President Trump wants to pull out, I don’t know how far Lopez Obrador will go to save it.”

The United States, which works closely with Mexican law enforcement on migration matters as well as its fight against drug cartels, watched Lopez Obrador’s rise warily.

Each year, the U.S. spends on average about $100 million on the Merida Initiative, a bilateral partnership forged in 2007 to help reduce the power of drug trafficking in Mexico. That money has been used to help train police, prosecutors and judges; fund improvements to prisons and jails; and aid an ongoing overhaul of the criminal justice system.

At the same time, Mexico—contrary to Trump’s claims—works substantially to stop illegal immigration to the U.S.; it has detained nearly 150,000 Central Americans crossing Mexico en route in the last year and a half.

Lopez Obrador has repeatedly said he hopes to forge a relationship “based on friendship” with the U.S. But in rallies leading up to his election, he also expressed frustration with the treatment of Latino immigrants in the U.S. and the effect of low-cost American agricultural imports on Mexico’s farmers.

Born to shopkeepers in Tabasco, an agrarian and oil-rich state in southern Mexico that has seen little benefit from NAFTA compared with Mexico’s north, Lopez Obrador views free-market policies and trade with the U.S. with suspicion. He believes working families have been left behind, and wants to push Mexico to be more independent in its production of food and gasoline.

He is also an amateur historian who has frequently highlighted the United States’ past aggressions against his country.

In 2016 he published a book about Catarino Garza, a Mexican revolutionary who launched a campaign into Mexico from Texas to start an uprising against the dictator Porfirio Diaz at the turn of the 20th century. In the text, Lopez Obrador laments U.S. President James Polk’s expansionist efforts, which he calls “a Yankee invasion,” and the “tragic” loss of a large part of Mexico’s territory. He goes on to quote Mexican “norteno” band Los Tigres del Norte: “I didn’t cross the border, the border crossed me.”

“I think he has a read of Mexican history in which the relationship with the U.S. has not always been helpful,” Selee said. “When he looks at U.S.-Mexico history, he reads it as a history of aggressiveness.”

There are things Lopez Obrador and Trump have in common. Both are populists with strong personalities who have positioned themselves as advocates for the people in the face of the elites. Both have called for raising wages for Mexican workers.

Alfonso Romo, a businessman who is one of Lopez Obrador’s top advisers, said at a news conference recently that he thinks Lopez Obrador will have the upper hand in the relationship.

“It’s very divided there,” he said of the U.S.

Lopez Obrador, on the other hand, won in a landslide, with his fledgling leftist party, known as Morena, also picking up a large number of gubernatorial and congressional seats.

“Trump doesn’t have this consensus,” Romo said.

As they voted in droves, Mexicans were not particularly focused on Washington. But they were eager to promote a leader who had Mexican interests at heart.

In AMLO, as Lopez Obrador is known, Mexicans elected a strong defender of Mexico, said Jason Marczak, a Latin America expert at the Washington think tank the Atlantic Council.

“Don’t expect him to acquiesce to U.S. demands,” Marczak said.

Obituaries and death notices for July 3, 2018

Catherine “Kay” (Gunn) Barry

Naruab C. Briggs

Patricia Marie Heenan

William I. Jacobson

Kathy M. Johnson

Debra “Debbie” Matzke

George “Bill” Moore, Jr.

Paula Nehring

Clare Purnell

Shawne Marie Reid

Dennis R. Sime

Eileen Walker

Shirley Delores Wilson