Letter to the Editor: State Treasurer’s Oversight Needed

Why you should care and vote NO on the proposed amendment to the State Constitution on eliminating the office of the State Treasurer.

This issue is not about saving the State of Wisconsin a position. This issue is about who will manage a $1 Billion Dollar Trust Fund, and 5,600 acres of valuable timber land with public access, to the current benefit of public schools, especially public libraries and places to hunt, fish and hike.

The fund is called the School Trust Fund, which is currently managed by a three-person commission called the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands. The State Treasurer is one of those board members. If the State Treasurer is eliminated and replaced by the Lieutenant Governor, this represents a significant gain of power by the Governor of the State of Wisconsin to fund public education and our libraries. This is what we are voting on.

As background, The Land Ordinance of 1785 provided for the lands west of Ohio to be surveyed and divided into 36 square mile townships and further divided into 1-mile square sections. Selling this land was a means of paying for the Revolutionary War. This Public Land Survey System also set aside one section (often section 16) as the school section. The proceeds of the sale of land in the school section were to be administered by the state and used for public education.

This is codified in the Wisconsin Constitution which stipulates that the Common School Fund (administered in part by the State Treasurer) be used for “the support and maintenance of common schools, in each school district, and the purchase of suitable libraries,” “the purchase of instructional materials from the state historical society for use in teaching Wisconsin history and for the purchase of library books and other instructional materials for school libraries” (and computers and software housed in the school library).

In 2017 the Common School Fund allocated $32.1 million in library aid throughout Wisconsin. In Door County this amounted to about $145,000 to our 5 school districts.

The Board of Commissioners of Public Lands currently operates efficiently, returning to our libraries 96 cents of every $1 earned. Having the State Treasurer serve on the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands is a check (albeit a modest one) on the governor’s and legislators’ power over public school funding. I urge you to vote No.


Norman J. Wilsman

Sturgeon Bay, Wis.

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