Tag Archives: City of West Bend

Fiscal Responsibility and Transparency in the City of West Bend

Meanwhile, at the city

During the April 1 council meeting aldermen unanimously adopted a new debt management policy that recognizes the city’s concerted effort to pay down debt.

“It does not bind and cannot bind future councils to borrow money or make financial decisions,” Sadownikow said. “What it can do is put a policy in place that recognizes the work that’s been done the last eight years to reduce the city’s overall debt.”

“Our goal is not just to be in the middle but to be a minimum of 10 percent better than that,” said Sadownikow. “If we want to develop a new industrial park, we may have to go into debt for a period of time to do that but the policy requires a public two-third vote to make that happen.”

The overriding theme of the policy, according to Sadownikow, is communication with the community.

“The idea is complete transparency,” he said. “Open discussion and community involvement, education, and advanced knowledge will be taking place if we’re going to break the debt policy.”

Sadownikow said the reason they adopted the new debt management policy was because city leaders realized how hamstrung they were with $84 million in debt.

“I get people in the grocery stores and others coming up to me saying ‘you can’t cut taxes forever.’ Well, part of that is true but, just like at home if you pay off your house you suddenly have $500 or an extra $1,000 or $2,000 to spend on other stuff…  that’s what we’ve been able to do in West Bend,” he said.

Reducing the debt, according to Sadownikow, means about $3 million to $4 million in principal and interest payments that the city can now use to invest back into employees, parks, and roads.

“We wanted to gain more financial independence to make other decisions around the community,” he said.  “Zero debt is a good idea but very few of us can own a house or a car if you didn’t utilize your own common sense and fiscal management.”

It’s wonderful to see this kind of leadership and responsibility in our city government!

 

City Leaders Express Regret for Funding Brainstorming Project

I remember casting an askance eye at this when it happened. I don’t remember if I wrote about it. Essentially, they paid $10,000 to have a bunch of college kids brainstorm ideas for our downtown. Of course, they don’t have any grounding in business, finance, etc. It was just a bunch of young adults sitting around saying, “wouldn’t it be cool if there was…” fill in the blank. I’m far more interested in the ideas from people who live and work in our downtown and would directly benefit/lose from the decisions made. Skin in the game and whatnot…

WEST BEND — Members of the Downtown West Bend Business Improvement District expressed some buyer’s remorse when they reviewed some of the ideas the high school and college students generated as part of The Commons group.

“I would just like to echo the thought that I think we overpaid in hindsight for this opportunity and that we should be more careful next time that we consider this sort of brainstorming activity,” Alderman Michael Christian said, who is also a member of the business improvement district.

Officials paid almost $10,000 for the opportunity to host students to develop ideas for improving the downtown. The idea was borne from a meeting during the first months of 2018 when board president Mike Husar requested Economic Development Manager Adam Gitter obtain a record of the vacant spaces, along with the businesses that occupied the buildings in the downtown.

That idea morphed into a more comprehensive project to generate general ideas for improving the downtown.

Chickens Come Home to Roost in West Bend

I know, I know… on the headline… groan. I couldn’t help myself. In any case, the West Bend Common Council will be taking up changes to the chicken ordinance tomorrow. The Washington County Insider has the details:

Jan. 6, 2019 – West Bend, WI – Here we go again. Monday night, Jan. 7 the West Bend Common Council will address the chicken issue as aldermen vote on changes to the ordinance and whether to finally allow chickens in the community.

The issue was tabled at the Dec. 17, 2018 meeting. Aldermen had some questions and there was extensive discussion. Click HERE to read more and watch the meeting video.

Changes were made to the proposed ordinance (see below) or click HERE for item 8. Monday, another vote will be taken on the issue.

The changes would essentially allow city residents to keep up to four hens (no roosters) in a coop on their property after getting a permit from the city. The City would notify neighbors of the permit request – presumably to give them the opportunity to protest against the permit if they want.

For the life of me, I have no idea why people get so exercised by chickens. This seems to be have been a rolling controversy in community after community as some city residents want to grow their own food. Chickens are just a step beyond having your own vegetable garden. But controversial it is…

As far as I’m concerned, I don’t care if people want chickens. It is their property and they can do what they want with it as long as it does not interfere with someone else’s property rights. We already have nuisance laws, so the need to license and regulate chicken coops seems idiotic and a waste of taxpayer money to me. There will only be a handful of people who actually try to raise chickens (I’m sure several will try, realize what a pain it is, and quit shortly thereafter). If it becomes a problem, then deal with the individuals accordingly.

Conservative leadership works

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online. For those who say that I never have anything good to say about government, well…

Most often, good government is boring government. For the better part of a decade, the goings on at the city of West Bend have been boring. The city has paid off debt, kept spending and taxes down, increased the fund balance, improved the city’s bond rating, controlled costs, etc. — all while maintaining and improving essential services and tackling a couple of big projects. Boring? Yes. But it is precisely the kind of boring that is the hallmark of good government.

Read the rest by picking up a copy or signing up online!

West Bend Mayor Weighs in on Dark Store

Nice story.

WEST BEND, WI—Kraig Sadownikow doesn’t look like an anti-corporate crusader. The mayor of West Bend, Wisconsin, stickers his pickup with a “Don’t Tread on Me” snake on the back window, a GOP elephant on the hitch, and the stars-and-stripes logo of his construction company across the bumper.

His fiscal conservatism is equally well billboarded: In the two hours we spent at City Hall and cruising West Bend in his plush truck, Sadownikow twice mentioned the 6 percent he has shaved off the Wisconsin city’s operating budget since becoming mayor in 2011, and stressed its efforts to bring more business to town.

So you might be surprised to learn that Sadownikow (he instructed me to pronounce his name like sat-on-a-cow) is personally boycotting two of the biggest big-box retailers in his town, Walmart and Menards, the Midwestern home improvement chain. He’s avoiding shopping at these companies’ stores until they cease what he sees as a flagrant exploitation of West Bend’s property tax system: repeat tax appeals that, added up, could undermine the town’s hard-won fiscal health.

Sadownikow is one of many unlikely combatants who have lined up against “dark store theory.” That’s the ominous-sounding term that administrators have given to a head-spinning legal argument taking cities across the U.S. by storm. Big-box retailers such as Walmart, Target, Meijer, Menards, and others are trimming their expenses in a forum where few residents are looking: the property tax assessment process. With one property tax appeal after another, they are compelling small-town assessors and high-court judges to accept the novel argument that their bustling big boxes should be valued like vacant “dark” stores—i.e., the near-worthless properties now peppering America’s shopping plazas.

 

What the Heck is a “Negative Savings”?

Heh

WEST BEND — After 12 months of collecting data from employees and their families regarding the onsite health clinic, officials have received information they hope to use to mitigate rising health care costs for their workforce.

Sara Stiefvater, the client operations manager, along with Regional Medical Director Dennis Schultz, both from Quad Medical, presented results of the operations for the onsite health clinic Monday to members of the Common Council.

[…]

She also provided information regarding the clinic’s profitability when combined with Washington County since the clinic is shared between their employees.

In the aggregate, officials experienced a negative savings for the first year by slightly more than $22,000. The total estimated savings was about $332,000 while the expenses, which includes staff as well as the payment to the vendor for operating the clinic, was about $355,000.

That’s the oddest way to say that… “experienced a negative savings” of $22,000. In the real world, we would day that it “costs” $22,000. This is significant because the whole point of the county and city providing a clinic is to bring down the overall costs. Otherwise, it’s just an additional benefit to government employees.

The impact the clinic will have for the city and county, at least in terms of savings and cost, is significant because that is the primary reason that administrators and leaders established one.

The clinic opened during the summer, marking the completion of a project that required about two years inthe hopes of slowing the increasing rate associated with health care costs.

“Over the course of three years, the projection is about $1 million (saved),” Human Resources Director Todd Scott said during a July 2017 interview. “It is really going to be based on participation. How many people use the clinic and what type of services. That is where the savings is going to come from.”

If the goal is to save $1 million in three years, then the clinic needs to save $511,000 each of the next two years. I don’t see that happening.

That being said, I would consider the clinic a success if it saves some decent amount each year. For example, if it saves the taxpayers $50,000 per year and provides a better healthcare alternative to employees, then it’s a net benefit worth keeping. If it is just going to be another perk for employees that costs taxpayers even more, then it fails to meet its stated justification and should be shut down.

Let’s give it another year and see how it goes.

Conservative Fiscal Management in West Bend Bears Fruit

Here is a portion of a column from the Mayor of West Bend that ran in the Washington County Insider:

Two weeks ago the Council was presented with our annual Financial Audit prepared and presented by Baker Tilly.  Recent Councils have taken action to improve the financial stability of West Bend.

In 2011, reserves stood 30% below the minimum recommended level for communities our size.  At the end of 2017, we are 53% above the minimum and nearing our goal level.

From a debt standpoint, we owed over $83,000,000 in 2010 and have reduced that number by 31% down to $57,000,000.  Our advisors and bonding agents recommend continued debt reduction but applaud our recent efforts.

As a community, we should be proud of the progress made the past 8 years and the stronger financial position we are currently in.

I would add to that story by pointing out that the City of West Bend has managed to lower its debt, increase its reserves, remodeled City Hall and the Police Department, met the city’s needs, and did so without raising taxes in YEARS. I think we are up to 9 years now without a tax increase in the city. They have been able to do all of this thanks to conservative leadership and taking advantage of Act 10.

This is what solid conservative fiscal leadership looks like. The Republicans over in Madison and Washington should take note.

Major Upgrade Planned for Regner Ball Park

What a great boon to West Bend!

May 21, 2018 – West Bend, WI – The West Bend Common Council emerged from closed session Monday to confirm a plan is in place to provide funds in a matching grant for improvements to Carl M. Kuss Field at Regner Park.

The deal includes a healthy grant from the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation.

“The schools district went out to get a $500,000 grant from the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation and that’s a game changer for the project,” said West Bend Mayor Kraig Sadownikow.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) approved by the Common Council will be official once the other organizations approve it.  According to Sadownikow, the decision was “easy” from a financial perspective.

“What it entails is $100,000 in cash from the city and there will be at least $75,000 in work we can do with demolition to the existing field and knocking down the grandstand,” said Sadownikow. “We spend somewhere between $60,000 and $75,000 a year to maintain the field so by eliminating that we’re paying for our investment in two to three years.”

Sadownikow praised the West Bend Baseball Association for donating “tons of time and energy” with money and scoreboards and field work. “I’ve been involved in five years of discussion, but getting the $500,000 grant is very important and what the MOU recognizes is $175,000 from the City of West Bend,  $100,000 from the West Bend School District and $35,000 directly from the WBBA.”

The remaining balance of the first $500,000 will be privately raised.

Couple Thoughts on Local Election Results in West Bend

Now that I’m back in town and have had a few minutes to look at the election results, I have a few thoughts on the local races. Here are the Washington County Results.

First, turnout in Washington County was impressive for an April election. Some races on the ballot pulled in 42% turnout and the county average was about almost 37%. Not bad.

Second, congratulations to Chris Zwygart and Kurt Rebholz who won convincing victories for seats on the West Bend School Board with 38.45% turnout. And thank you to Monte Schmiege for his service to the community. As I said in my column, I think that the four candidates are pretty conservative and would find agreement on probably 90%+ of issues. I have a high degree of confidence that they will be solid stewards of the school district. It is curious how different the results were with the same four candidates in the primary election. Clearly, a lot of work happened between the primary and the general election.

Third, I am flabbergasted that the City of West Bend voters voted FOR a tax increase to fund spending increases for transportation. Granted, it was for the cheapest option and it only won by 110 votes, but that’s shocking in this community. They also voted to encourage the county to share sales tax revenues with local communities. That makes more sense.

I’m going to admit that I didn’t really have any time to figure out the the aldermanic or county supervisor races. I did find it curious that the two incumbents for the Kewaskum School Board won reelection. That district just passed a big school referendum, so it appears that the voters up there are still pretty satisfied with that.

Overall, the Blue Wave we saw at the state level clearly had an impact locally too. Given the results, I would expect every local unit of government that wants more money to get a referendum on the November ballot to capitalize on the wave.

Go Vote!

It’s election day in Wisconsin. Most importantly, get out and vote for Judge Michael Screnock. Also, vote YES to get rid of the State Treasurer. Then look down the ballot and make choices in your local races.

In my neck of the woods, I encourage you to vote for Monte Schmiegie and Mary Weigand for the West Bend School Board, and vote NO on all four of the referenda for roads in the City of West Bend.

Like many folks, I took advantage of in-person early voting and exercised my franchise last week. If you didn’t, there’s a snow storm schmucking Wisconsin today. It looks like it’s going to roll into the southern third of Wisconsin this afternoon, so get out there and vote this morning. We’re Wisconsinites… we don’t let a little snow keep us away from choosing our government.

 

West Bend asks if it’s time for a tax increase to pay for streets

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online. Here you go:

The West Bend Common Council has reached a crossroads and is turning to the public for advice. After almost a decade without a tax increase, the city’s streets are in good condition, but they could be better. Are the taxpayers willing to stomach a tax increase to pay for better streets? That is the subject of four advisory referendums on the April 3 ballot.

Maintaining the city’s streets is a core function of city government. Quality streets are critical to the city’s economy and quality of life. Measuring the quality of streets is also inherently subjective. West Bend has about 134 miles of streets, but nobody drives on all of them. Any citizen’s perception of the quality of the city’s streets is limited to their experiences on the subset of streets they use. If the street I live on is crumbling, then I am more likely to think that the city’s streets are poor.

Many Wisconsin municipalities use the PASER rating system to try to measure the overall quality of the streets. The PASER rating ranges from 1 to 10, with a 10 being a new street. The city evaluates all of the streets every two years. The PASER rating is based on a subjective visual observation of the streets, but it gives us some benchmark against which to gauge the quality of the city’s streets.

West Bend’s average PASER rating was 5.89 in 2011 when the city began increasing spending on street maintenance by about 4 percent every year. In 2017, that rating rose to 6.04. That is considered “good” on the PASER scale and comparable with cities of a similar size. Keep in mind, however, that there is a lot of subjectivity inherent to the PASER rating, so changes of a few decimal points are not necessarily relevant. Also, no study has shown any correlation between a city’s PASER rating and citizen satisfaction — largely because of the perception issue mentioned earlier.

The equation for getting better streets is pretty simple at the local level: spend more, faster. While the city will likely be able to save some money on projects thanks to the repeal of the prevailing wage laws, those savings will have a marginal impact on overall spending at a municipal scale. The question then becomes, do the citizens of West Bend want better streets? If so, how do they want to pay for it? Those are the questions the four referendum questions seek to answer.

Referendum questions 1 and 2 ask if the taxpayers want to increase property taxes by $640,000 or $1.2 million, respectively, to be used for streets. Question 3 asks if the citizens would like to implement a $20 wheel tax to be used exclusively for road designated borrowing.Question 4 asks if the city’s citizens would support an agreement with Washington County to distribute up to 25 percent of the proceeds of the county sales tax to municipalities to pay for roads.

On these four questions, I will be voting, “no,” “heck, no,” “are you kidding me?” and “nope,” respectively.

The first three questions are straightforward. If you want to spend more on the city’s streets, they are asking the amount and method of payment. I do not support raising any taxes to spend more on the streets. Frankly, the city has been doing a good job in maintaining the city’s streets and slowly improving them over time within the confines of the funds available. It has been an impressive display of leadership and good stewardship of the taxpayers’ money for which the city’s leadership and staff deserve commendation. I have confidence in their continued leadership in this regard.

The fourth question is interesting in that a vote on an advisory referendum regarding something the County Board might consider is almost completely meaningless. In fact, the County Board and county administrator have already shot down the idea. In theory, if the county has a sales tax that is collected from all of the citizens in the county, it is not unreasonable for the county to remit some of those proceeds back to the municipalities.

The sales tax in Washington County was originally passed as a temporary tax to fund a few major capital projects. I still cling with childlike belief to the hope that a conservative County Board will one day honor their predecessors’ word to the taxpayers and end the sales tax. The addition of more municipal fingers into the sales tax pie makes the possibility of ending the county sales tax even less likely.

West Bend has been a case study is solid conservative city management for several years. They have kept taxes flat while meeting the city’s priorities and maintaining or improving services. These referendum questions are a sincere query of the citizens to ask if the time has come to raise taxes to improve the city’s streets faster. No, that time has not yet come, but the city’s leaders earned the right to ask. Keep up the good work, West Bend.

Explaining the Upcoming Road Referendum in West Bend

There is a referendum coming up on the April ballot asking the citizens of West Bend what they want to do about their roads. Alderman Rich Kasten took the time to explain it the other night and the Washington County Insider was there to record it for us. Here you go:

 

West Bend’s New Development Manager

West Bend has a new Development Manager. And he blogs…

I hear a lot as I reach out to local businesses with the number one concern being workforce.  The City of West Bend is creating a blog to address certain topics related to Economic Development and the City.  This is intended to facilitate a discussion and you can find our blog on the City of West Bend website under “The WB-log”, along with various social media sites.  So follow us on Facebook and LinkedIn, the City of West Bend has some fun new and exciting things going on. You don’t want to miss out.

I know what you are thinking and it can be fun, interesting, and engaging. I could add a joke or two if you would like but I am under the impression everyone would prefer a list.  So here is my top 7 list of what needs to be mentioned to keep you engaged.

  1. Roads
  2. Target and Olive Garden coming to town
  3. Aaron Rodgers
  4. Foxconn (it’s an economic development blog) – And by the way… we can talk about this if you would like but talking about Foxconn is like trying to have a serious conversation with Arnold Schwarzenegger. In the end you are just going to be thinking to yourself, “Can you believe this giant man is talking to me and is he doing a fake accent of himself?” It is just hard to take too seriously because of the magnitude of everything surrounding it. (I’m counting this as a mini blog within an blog)
  5. The Brewery
  6. The Bucks (That one is for me)
  7. Fleet Farm

Why am I taking the time to write this?  Well, I am your new Economic Development Manager for the City of West Bend.  The way I see this going and the way this will probably go are two totally different things most likely.  I want to take topics in the City of West Bend and Economic Development in an effort to have a conversation about them.  This is not going to be just me rambling, the City of West Bend wants to hear from you.  To prove it, here is my contact information.

Adam Gitter, Economic Development Manager

(262) 306-3108

gittera@ci.west-bend.wi.us

Please feel free to ask the City of West Bend questions.  Whether it be on social media or you contact me directly.  In the future, writings can be short and sweet or long and bitter.  No special format, just discussing a topic.  If a conversation starts, then a goal for the blog has been met.  Please be respectful to one another, and know that my sarcasm and sense of humor is not for everyone. I just want to write about topics that I find interesting and I hear a lot about in my daily life on the job.

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?

Only Five Qualify to Hunt in West Bend’s Parks

When the city announced their plan for hunting in the parks, I said, “only government could come up with something so convoluted.” Well, the result of their process is that they needed nine hunters, they had nine applicants, and only five qualified.

There were nine bow hunters who participated in the proficiency test and bow hunter exam. The step was part of the process to take part in the public deer hunt set for Jan. 10-14, 2018.

Five hunters passed with a perfect score including Steven Kraker, Brad Zuba, Jeffrey G. Bach and Brad Beck. Following a background check the hunters will be issued nuisance tags.

The city is working with people in the community to try to trim the local deer herd by about 40 bucks and does.

[…]

City clerk Stephanie Justman said the committee will determine how to move forward with fewer hunters. “There were four districts/zones outlined for the hunt at Lac Lawrann Conservancy and five districts/zones at Ridge Run Park,” she said.

West Bend Moves Forward With Hunting in City Parks

I support this measure, but sheesh… only government could come up with something so convoluted.

West Bend officials have finalized the details of a measure to allow bow hunting in two of the city’s parks beginning in January.

Common Council members voted to approve the recommendations outlined in the Deer Management Plan during Monday’s meeting, creating a path for the process to begin bow hunting at Lac Lawrann Conservancy and Ridge Run Park.

[…]

During their discussions, they eventually agreed to recommend closing the two parks for the duration of the hunt in January. They also wanted to establish several hurdles for applicants to traverse to earn the privilege of killing game on public lands.

One was a proficiency test to assess the accuracy of their shot. Standing on a platform at the archery range, applicants will shoot their bows at a 6-inch target 20 yards away.

To pass the examination, the hunters must place five of the six shots within the circular target.

[…]

Applicants must also obtain a perfect score on a written exam to determine if they understand the rules for hunting once they ae issued a permit from West Bend officials. Potential hunters must submit the results of both of their exams, the application, and pay a fee to be eligible for the lottery that will yield the nine individuals eligible to hunt the grounds.

The zones assigned to the hunter have been determined and applicant will be allotted one based on a random draw.

“We are going to make them jump through all these hoops, go online, fill out an application, go online, fill out the test, show up at the archery range, pay $10 cash, pass that, bring it all here, give the city another $20 after I fill out my application on line,” committee member Michael Jentsch said during the meeting. “I just did that. About 50 us did that for $1,500 total, and only six people get permits? I am just saying that we make sure everyone who is applying understands how many people are going to get involved.

This should be pretty simple… the purpose is to kill some of the deer because there are too many of them. They are a danger to motorists and destructive to crops. So we need to kill them, but do it safely. Right?

Close the parks for a few days and issue a limited number of licences to bow hunters.

Done.

Hopefully we’ll get to that kind of simplicity after trying to overthink it for a few years.


For the record, accidents with bows are extremely rare. In fact, there were no reported incidents in 2017. And I can’t remember the last time I heard of a report of an accidental death by a bow hunter despite tens of thousands of bow hunters in the woods for weeks on end. The reason is simple. Bows are a short range weapon that are exceedingly difficult to accidentally discharge.

The hoops that West Bend are imposing aren’t really about safety. They are about the appearance of safety. It’s like the TSA.

But… it’s a step in the right direction.

Two People Attend Public Input Session about West Bend Transportation

I’m going to suggest that the people of West Bend are not so outraged by the road conditions in the city that they are clamoring for a tax increase.

Nov. 28, 2017 – West Bend, WI – There were two people in attendance at Monday night’s public session to discuss an upcoming advisory referendum on road repair in West Bend.

“We had only two people show up – a married couple and they were not in favor of a wheel tax,” said Dist. 5 alderman Rich Kasten. “They had concerns about their own street; he wanted to have it repaired, she wanted to wait.”

There will be two more public sessions for neighbors in West Bend to provide input on the roads as well as the advisory referendum.

*   Thursday, Nov. 30 – Coffee in the Police Department classroom, 8:30 a.m. – 10 a.m. featuring a condition of West Bend city streets round table discussion with Dist. 5 alderman and Long Range Planning committee chair Rich Kasten, City Engineer Max Marechal, and City Administrator Jay Shambeau. The Police Department classroom is the first door on the right after entering West Bend City Hall, 1115 S. Main Street.

*   Dec. 18, 2017 – City Council listening session before a regular council meeting 5 p.m. – 6 p.m.

“I am hoping these listening sessions will provide information with regard to both road conditions and the options we can consider – from staying the course to increased borrowing scenarios,” said Kasten.

City of West Bend Considers Transportation Advisory Referendum Tonight

The Washington County Insider has more details.

Oct. 4, 2017 – West Bend, WI – The Long Range Transportation Planning Committee (LRTPC) will make a recommendation to the Common Council tonight for an advisory referendum to gauge whether neighbors want city leaders to spend more on road repair.

In 2015 the city put together the LRTC to specifically look at issues dealing with road maintenance and repair. Aldermen said roads were the No. 1 complaint of taxpayers.

In September 2015 the city posted a Transportation Survey

Dist. 5 alderman Rich Kasten, who heads up the LRTPC, said the survey was “not to advocate for any potential solution but garner true and valuable feedback on the appetite of the citizens when it comes to road maintenance.”

Some of the options to fund road repair are below:

  1. Continue to spend 4 percent more per year on road maintenance
  2. Enact a wheel tax of $20 per registered passenger vehicle / car or light truck. That could generate about $600,000 annually to be spent on roads.
  3. Increase property taxes specifically for road projects.

[…]

Tonight’s Common Council meeting gets underway at 6:30 p.m. at West Bend City Hall, 1115 S. Main Street.

West Bend Considers Tax Increase for Roads

Hmmmm

Survey results showed taxpayers wanted to city to stay the course on road maintenance with a 4 percent bump in spending each year. The second plan would be to carry out a referendum to raise taxes and the least favorite option was the wheel tax

City Administrator Jay Shambeau said the conversation on road repair started again a couple months ago and at the last meeting the LRTC looked at three options:

  1. Continue to spend 4 percent more per year on road maintenance

  2. Enact a wheel tax of $20 per registered passenger vehicle / car or light truck. That could generate about $600,000 annually to be spent on roads.

  3. Increase property taxes specifically for road projects.

 

Here’s the thing… for the last 6 or 7 years, the City of West Bend has controlled spending while they maintained or decreased property taxes. We have seen the city attract some great new businesses and unemployment drop to one of the lowest levels in history. The city has earned the right to ask the taxpayers for more money and for the taxpayers to seriously consider it.

In the coming months we’ll be able to take a closer look at the issue once we know what the specific ask is. My gut reaction is that a wheel tax is a non-starter. Nobody wants a new tax and watching Milwaukee pass one and double it within a year to ($60) should give anyone pause.

The other option is to stop the increase in spending on road repairs. That, of course, has consequences and the city leaders will have to demonstrate how that money is being spent wisely – particularly after the state repealed the prevailing wage laws and gave the City the power of Act 10.

A property tax increase is never popular, but may be an option. “How much” is always a question.

Also, it should be noted that the city does not operate in a vacuum. The odds are better than 60/40 that the West Bend School District will also be asking the voters for more money next year – possibly on the same ballot. While all of the school district’s voters don’t live in the City of West Bend, all of the voters of West Bend live in the school district. If both governments ask for tax increases on the same ballot, it is more likely that voters in the city will say “a pox on all of you.”

Deer in West Bend

There has been a push in West Bend in recent years to allow some sort of hunting in the city parks. The reason for this is that there are a LOT of deer. But the data has been hard to come by. Most of the commentary has been anecdotal by residents saying that they see a lot more deer. Earlier this week, the West Bend Common Council wisely tabled a proposal to allow some hunting and wanted to study the issue and come up with a more thoughtful plan.

Part of the reason was that the Mayor and Council were waiting for some data about deer/car collision trends in the city. That data is in. Mayor Kraig Sadownikow shared it:

In ’09 & ’10 we averaged 13.5 collisions per year

2011-2016 we AVERAGED 41 per year with a high mark in 2013 of 69.

WOW! Sadownikow offers this comment:

“I don’t think it is a coincidence the vehicle/deer collision numbers grew exponentially at the same time complaints from residents grew to the point they are today.  We simply have more deer causing more damage to more vehicles and property today than we did 10 years ago.  I don’t believe it is a matter of if we should do something, rather a matter of what to do.  The Council, staff and I are committed to researching and then putting forth a reasonable, effective, safe program to help get this growing problem under control while maintaining a healthy wildlife population in West Bend.”

Board Member Mike Chevalier weighed in:

I second Kraig’s comments.  My original request was for the counts that were 10, 15, and 20 years ago.  The police department only had information going back to 2009.  They are working with DOT to see if they have more information going back farther per my request.

All I can say is when I moved into my house over 16-years ago it was a wow factor to see 1 deer in one year.  Today, the wow factor occurs when we do not see 1 deer in 1 day.

I’m looking forward to a deliberative process to find the best solution to this growing safety issue.