City of West Bend Puts Transportation Advisory Referendum on April Ballot

We knew this was coming, but last night the West Bend Common Council voted to ask the voters through referendum how we want to address our transportation funding moving forward. Here are the four options upon which they settled:

According to the notice of advisory referendum, West Bend officials have planned four questions for the public to consider during the spring election. The first question is:

 “Currently, the city of West Bend invests over $1 million (increasing 4 percent annually) on road and sidewalk maintenance,” the first question reads. “In addition to this annual investment, would you support the Common Council increasing property taxes by approximately $640,000, approximately by 23 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, to apply to borrowing that can be used for roads?”

The second question is a variant of the first but doubles the amount of the tax that officials will impose on residents.

 “Currently, the city of West Bend invests over $1 million (increasing 4 percent annually) on road and sidewalk maintenance. In addition to this annual investment, would you support the Common Council increasing property taxes by approximately $1.2 million, approximately by 46 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, to apply to borrowing that can be used for road.

The third question also asks if residents are willing to pay more, but alters the manner in which it is imposed.

 “Currently, the city of West Bend invests over $1 million (increasing 4 percent annually) on road and sidewalk maintenance,” the third question reads. “In addition to this annual investment, would you support the Common Council implementing a $20 vehicle registration fee (wheel tax) to apply exclusively to road designated borrowing?”

[…]

The final question is meant to address a collaborative initiative with the county.

 “Washington County currently imposes a 0.5 percent sales tax throughout the county and none of these dollars are shared with the local municipalities (e.g. the city of West Bend). Municipalities have recently put forth a proposal to the County for sharing sales tax revenues,” the fourth question states. “Would you support an agreement where the County would distribute up to 25 percent of the revenues with the municipalities (approximately $600,000 for West Bend) to apply to road designated borrowing?”

Based on my conversations with some of the folks involved, I do believe that this is an honest, straight-forward question for the voters and the council intends to follow the public’s lead. There has been increasing frustration and tension on the council regarding transportation. Projects never get done as quickly as anyone would like. There are some who think the time has come to raise taxes and spend more on the roads. There are some who want to stay the course. There are some who are looking for an alternative way – like collaborating with the county for funding. There is an honest impasse and they are using the referendum process to get guidance on how to proceed from the public.

I do wish that they had an option for “stay the course.” I think they figured that no such option was necessary because it is the obvious option for people who vote, but don’t select any of the four options. But it would have been nice to have an affirmative option for “stay the course.” Or an option for “spend less,” but I suppose that was too much to consider.

What do you think?

12 Responses to City of West Bend Puts Transportation Advisory Referendum on April Ballot

  1. ChrisJenkinsWB says:

    We on the Transportation Committee found it difficult to word a strictly “Yes” or “No” question on staying the course. For instance, if we asked, “The ‘city of West Bend invests over $1 million (increasing 4 percent annually) on road and sidewalk maintenance’  should we continue doing so?”, what would a “No” vote mean? Do they want us to spend less? Spend more? Etc… So instead, each of the questions that you see state what we are currently doing. We hope that when a voter gets to the polls they would be answering all four options. And a “No” vote to any or all of the questions means they’d rather we continue what we’re currently doing. (BTW, I am confident this will be the most likely outcome voters will guide us to) – but I am excited for the open feedback regardless. I would stress to constituents that we really are listening, and any and all feedback is appreciated.

    Ald. Chris Jenkins

  2. Owen Owen says:

    Thanks for the clarification, Alderman Jenkins. That makes sense and I’m glad that the council is taking this open approach to the issue.

  3. billphoto says:

    Funding roads or for that matter, all infrastructure upkeep is a complex issue nearly impossible to intelligently discuss but Washington County’s sales tax is another matter.  Two points:

    The sales tax was a  TEMPORARY TAX to fund construction projects that have long been finished.  Millions of taxpayers dollars have been siphoned off to prop up County business entities like Fair Park and the Golf Course.  Millions more have gone to Economic Development and, of course, roads and some of the money is listed in the budget as tax relief.  While touting tax relief as a justification for keeping the sales tax, one has to question the benefits to all taxpayers of tens of millions of dollars other expenditures.

    County vehicles use West Bend’s roads but contribute nothing to the cost of upkeep.  More, West Bend, like other municipalities, maintains its’ own police department but West Bend taxpayers pay not only the County sales tax but also other taxes.  It would not be fair for WB taxpayers to get a free ride but it would seem fair that Washington County have some revenue sharing arrangement with municipalities that do not use County services like the police department – (BTW-Hartford does not even have a County park.)

    Consider County sales tax dollars have propped up the County golf course.  For many years, County taxpayers have contributed $500K annually to pay for their mortgage because the golf course was not profitable.  In a County with a half a dozen golf courses, why is Washington County in the business of competing with PRIVATE golf courses and subsidizing the venture with taxpayers money.  The same can be said for Fair Park in the hospitality business competing with PRIVATE small businesses.

    Acknowledging there are valid arguments on both side, I would opine, in the interests of fairness, that County politicians and bureaucrats need to re-examine their position.

  4. Le Roi du Nord says:

    bill:

    Could you expand on your statement, “County vehicles use West Bend’s roads but contribute nothing to the cost of upkeep” ?   Defining what you mean by “County vehicles” makes a big difference in the truthiness of your claim.  Thanks

  5. Paul says:

    You are not qualified to judge the truthiness of anything.

  6. billphoto says:

    Paul – The main tool of the troll is accusation, here, suggesting I am not truthful. Trying to turn my words against me, twisting my statements and pounding away at one aspect of my viewpoint instead of actually grasping my point is obviously purposeful but it does not change the fact that, for example, WB taxpayers pay for local police and County Deputy Sheriffs, who provide little or no service to the citizens of WB.  This and other inequities deserve some discussion.

    What do you think of County’s use of sales tax money regards the benefits to County taxpayers?

  7. Paul says:

    You are precisely correct, Bill.

  8. Le Roi du Nord says:

    bill:

    So you were referring to vehicles owned by the County?

    If you local police and County Deputy Sheriffs provide little or no service to the citizens of WB, why not?  Don’t you hold your elected and appointed officials accountable??  Why not?

  9. billphoto says:

    OMG-lather, rinse, repeat!

  10. Paul says:

    86 the troll.

  11. Le Roi du Nord says:

    So you two won’t answer the questions??  All whine, no substance……

  12. Paul says:

    You’re not worth the effort, troll.

    Too bad you don’t get 86ed.

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