Reality Check: Novak attacks Cates’ time on school board

Reality Check: Novak attacks Cates’ time on school board

In the race for the 51st Assembly District, Republican candidate Todd Novak is running an ad criticizing his opponent’s time on a local school board.

“Showing up is half of getting the job done, but Dick Cates can’t get either half right,” the ad says. “On the school board, Dick Cates missed dozens of meetings.”

News 3 finds this needs clarification.

Cates has been on the River Valley School Board since 2006. In that time, he’s missed 23 meetings out of 130. His absences peaked in 2013 when he missed eight of 24 meetings. Six of those were special, not regularly scheduled board meetings.

The Cates campaign says the missed meetings were for personal reasons, including a double-knee replacement, the death of his mother and work responsibilities at the University of Wisconsin. In all cases they say the board president was told of the absence and excused it.

“When he did bother to show up, Dick voted the wrong way,” the ad says. “Cates voted to raise taxes 28 percent on his hardworking neighbors.”

News 3 finds this also needs clarification.

Between 2005 and 2014, the overall tax levy in the River Valley School District has gone up by 27.5 percent.

But the way budgets are passed in River Valley is different than it is in Madison. The district budget and the tax levy are proposed by the district’s business manager, and both are presented first to the voters at an annual meeting for a non-binding vote. In all nine years Cates was on the board, voters approved that proposed budget and the board, in turn, gave final approval.

So while Cates may have voted for the tax increase, it’s possible his neighbors, had they been at the district’s annual meeting, voted for it too.

Reality check of Democratic Party attack ad