A few weeks ago, a City of West Bend committee held a public hearing to begin the process of gathering public input about how to prioritize and pay for transportation infrastructure needs in the city. I covered it in this post.
Now they are taking the next step by asking the public for their input via an online survey.
If you are a citizen of West Bend, you can respond to the survey here. I highly encourage you to do so.
It is a short survey. I had a couple of thoughts after filling it out. First, it is an online survey with no security to prevent people from outside of the city from filling it out or people taking it multiple times. It’s a handy and inexpensive way to gather information, but the results should only be considered as part of a bigger picture.
Second, I notice that it asks us to rank the options in order. The three options are to (1) keep the current plan, which is to continue increasing transportation spending at a rate higher than inflation; (2) add a wheel tax or other special tax; and (3) go to referendum for a property tax increase. It does not escape my notice that there isn’t an option to either keep spending at the rate of inflation or actually decrease spending. This frames the issue as transportation infrastructure spending must increase and the only questions are how much and how will it be funded? That’s unfortunate.
Good post Owen and thanks for your ending point. While the option does exist to reduce funding for road maintenance, that would typically mean a reduction in the road miles per year we are able to improve….with one exception. If the cost per mile can be reduced through opening the market via repealing prevailing wage laws we will be able to improve more miles per dollar. Personally, I support an increase in the transportation maintenance budget as long as we can prove we are investing in more projects per year, and as long as the increased budget is a result of efficiency identification and/or value growth in the City.
Exploring options to maintain more road miles per year has been identified as a priority for the current Council as well as those in the recent past. The goal is to leave long term maintenance items in better position going forward than the condition we found them in.
The increases in the road maintenance budget over the past 3-4 years have been accomplished through identifying efficiencies, not increasing the overall budget. In fact, the total cost to operate the City is about 6% lower in 2015 than it was in 2011 thanks to cost reductions in lower priority areas and growth in entrepreneurial activities at the City level allowing an increased investment in high priority items.
The projected 4% increase in the road maintenance budget going forward is expected to be accomplished similarly via efficiencies and value growth in the City, not via an increase in the tax rate.
I think recent Councils have proven to be frugal and thoughtful regarding budget items and are not keen on increasing a budget just for the sake of doing so…….