Tag Archives: City of West Bend

RIP West Bend Alderman Hoogester

Sad news from the Washington County Insider:

Hoogester graduated Germantown High School in 1973. He started with the West Bend Police Department in the early 1980s and retired after 34 years from the WBPD as a Lieutenant.

He was first elected to the Common Council in April 2013 replacing Mike Schlotfeldt.

With the City of West Bend, Hoogester was part of the Deer Management Committee and Finance Committee.

“It is devistating news,” said Dist. 5 alderman Jed Dolnick.  “I knew Steve when we first started in law enforcement; I knew Steve through our work at the sheriff’s department and police department. He was a good friend and this is unbelieveable.”

Former Dist. 7 alderman Adam Williquette worked with Hoogester on the common council for several terms.  “I sat next to Steve on council for five years and got to know him well during our tenure. He put a lot of time in for the betterment of our community and will be truly missed,” said Williquette.

Former Mayor Kraig Sadownikow said, “Simply put, Steve was a good man.  He was a good father and husband and he was proud of his City.   Steve did not run for office to be a politician.   He decided to be an alderman for the same reason he chose law enforcement for his career, to help people.”

When nobody was looking, West Bend became liberal

Here is my full column that ran in the Washington County Daily News last week.

While the national political scene continues to dominate our attention, local politicians are making decisions that will more directly impact our everyday lives. In the city of West Bend, the Common Council has taken a lurch to the left and is pushing for the second property tax increase in as many years. What is happening in West Bend is a good case study for how much local leadership matters and how easy it is for the big spenders to seize control when the citizens get lazy.

West Bend has always been a conservative community. Like many smallish conservative cities, the city was run by a close cabal of old-time Benders for a long time. Well-meaning, but without much vision, the city leadership plodded along steadily raising spending, raising taxes, increasing debt, and seemingly intent on just making sure everybody would go along to get along.

Springing out of the national tea party movement, local conservatives began to look seriously at the city’s governance in 2009. Groups like Concerned Citizens of Washington County sprang up with the express purpose of recruiting, encouraging, and supporting conservatives to run for local office.

It worked. Election after election, principled conservatives ran for local office and won. In the city of West Bend, the result was a slate of conservative council members and a conservative mayor who were intent on leading the city in a conservative direction. In 2011 they passed a flat-tax-levy budget and then cut the tax levy by 5% in 2012. For the rest of the decade, conservative leadership meant flat taxes year after year, a dramatic improvement in the city’s debt load, the shedding of unfunded liabilities for retired employees, and frugal spending. Along the way, the city upgraded the riverwalk, made parks selfsustained, expanded the police station and City Hall, and attracted businesses to locate and expand in West Bend.

It was a good run, but it is over now. After a decade of good governance, local conservatives got lazy. They stopped recruiting and supporting new conservatives to run for local office. The big spenders and lefties returned to power as local conservatives twiddled their thumbs and harrumphed at each other.

Over the past several elections, big spenders and lefties ran for, and won, seats on the Common Council. They are in firm control. The new mayor, Chris Jenkins, trumpets his conservatism in public, but has proven too weak to provide firm conservative leadership in the face of opposition.

Last year the Common Council passed a property tax increase even though the city had the money to pay for the entire budget without raising taxes. They passed a tax increase because they wanted to see if the public would scream too loud. Aldermen John Butschlick, Mark Allen, Steve Hoogester, Justice Madl, and Roger Kist voted to increase taxes. Aldermen Andrew Chevalier, Chris Jenkins, and Rich Kasten voted against a tax increase. Since then, all three of the aldermen who voted against the tax increase have left the council and Jenkins was elected mayor.

This year, the council is proposing a 5% tax levy increase that will be used to increase spending and pad employee compensation. Most city employees will receive a pay increase with at least one high-level employee receiving a $12,125, or 11%, raise. Meanwhile, the city in increasing the percentage of premiums that taxpayers cover by about 1%. A city employee will pay 13% of the premium for a family plan under the new budget. The average going rate for Wisconsin private-sector employees is more than twice that.

Just like last year, the city does not need to increase taxes. Thanks to new construction, the city will get a 4% increase in the tax levy without increasing taxes on everyone. Just like last year, the Common Council seems determined to raise taxes anyway. The budget calls for a 5% levy increase. A council dominated by former public employees seems resentful that a year should pass without increasing taxes. It is easier to keep increasing taxes a little every year and finding a place to spend it instead of only asking for a tax increase when they need it.

Alderwoman Meghann Kennedy has been the lone voice for fiscal conservatism on the council as the rest seem intent on passing annual tax increases irrespective of the need or the property owners’ ability to pay. 2020 has been a tough year for many, but that fact seems lost in the halls of city government.

As I write this column, the public hearing for the budget is in the future. As you read this, the hearing is in the past. Irrespective of how the hearing went or how the council votes, the only way to truly return West Bend to conservative fiscal management is to elect the principled conservatives who will lead future councils. The liberals will always fill a leadership vacuum. If conservatives in West Bend want to see conservative leadership, they will need to get off their duffs and put some effort into it. The same is true all over Wisconsin. Leadership starts locally.

When nobody was looking, West Bend became liberal

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. Last night’s vote pretty well proves the thesis. Here’s a part:

It was a good run, but it is over now. After a decade of good governance, local conservatives got lazy. They stopped recruiting and supporting new conservatives to run for local office. The big spenders and lefties returned to power as local conservatives twiddled their thumbs and harrumphed at each other.

Over the past several elections, big spenders and lefties ran for, and won, seats on the Common Council. They are in firm control. The new mayor, Chris Jenkins, trumpets his conservatism in public, but has proven too weak to provide firm conservative leadership in the face of opposition.

Last year the Common Council passed a property tax increase even though the city had the money to pay for the entire budget without raising taxes. They passed a tax increase because they wanted to see if the public would scream too loud. Aldermen John Butschlick, Mark Allen, Steve Hoogester, Justice Madl, and Roger Kist voted to increase taxes. Aldermen Andrew Chevalier, Chris Jenkins, and Rich Kasten voted against a tax increase. Since then, all three of the aldermen who voted against the tax increase have left the council and Jenkins was elected mayor.

This year, the council is proposing a 5% tax levy increase that will be used to increase spending and pad employee compensation.

[…]

A council dominated by former public employees seems resentful that a year should pass without increasing taxes. It is easier to keep increasing taxes a little every year and finding a place to spend it instead of only asking for a tax increase when they need it.

Alderwoman Meghann Kennedy has been the lone voice for fiscal conservatism on the council as the rest seem intent on passing annual tax increases irrespective of the need or the property owners’ ability to pay. 2020 has been a tough year for many, but that fact seems lost in the halls of city government.

As I write this column, the public hearing for the budget is in the future. As you read this, the hearing is in the past. Irrespective of how the hearing went or how the council votes, the only way to truly return West Bend to conservative fiscal management is to elect the principled conservatives who will lead future councils. The liberals will always fill a leadership vacuum. If conservatives in West Bend want to see conservative leadership, they will need to get off their duffs and put some effort into it. The same is true all over Wisconsin.

Leadership starts locally.

West Bend Council Passes Tax Increase on 6-2 Vote

There you go, Benders. Enjoy the higher taxes. Alders Randy Koehler and Meghann Kennedy were the only two who voted against the tax increase budget. Alders John Butschlick, Mark Allen, Brett Bergquist, Jed Dolnick, Steve Hoogester, and Justice Madl all voted to increase taxes in a year when citizens were losing their jobs and businesses in the face of a global pandemic.

You get the government you vote for.

Will you do anything about it?

Mark Allen and Steve Hoogester are up for election in April (assuming they run).

West Bend Budget Public Hearing Tonight

They want more money. Per the Washington County Insider.

November 8, 2020 – West Bend, WI – There is a public hearing Monday night, November 9, 2020 as the West Bend common council votes to pass a .08 cent increase in the tax rate which would bring the proposed rate from $7.85 to $7.93.
Pay raises are a large part of the budget increase.
In June 2020 two employees received $12,000 pay increases. Another employee received a $5,000 pay raise to jump to $100,814, and two others had a $4,000+ salary increase to climb to the mid-$90,000 mark. Members of the common council confirmed those employees who received large salary increases will also be part of the cross-the-board 2-percent staff salary increase in 2020.
A request was put in several weeks ago for the 2018-2019 employee payscale. That amount has still yet to be shared.
Right now with the way the 2021 budget is written, we will be imposing a tax increase on our constituents. While some may argue it is a small increase I want everyone to understand I am unequivocally opposed to an increase due to what is happening right now in our community and the impacts we are seeing as a result of COVID.
Layoffs, mandatory furloughs, reduced hours and business closures are common place right now in our community.
Washington County is forcing the county government staff to take 5 mandatory furlough days this year as a cost cutting measure.
Several large Wisconsin companies reduced its staff in 2020 to cut cost, including the #7 largest employer in the state Kohl’s who laid off 15% of its local WI corporate headquarters staff in September.
Within the last year the Wisconsin government ordered non-essential businesses to close their doors for an extended period of time during safer at home and just this week ordered capacity limits of 25% to already struggling businesses.
Data released in late September by the Dept. of Workforce Development showed 713,508 unemployment insurance claims are STILL being processed, that number represents over 98,000 Wisconsinites, and some of those claims date all the way back to March.
Wisconsin unemployment rate has essentially doubled from this time last year.  Currently WI has 6.2% unemployment rate, it was only 3.4% at this time last year.
I do not think it is appropriate for the West Bend common council to raise taxes on our citizens during this time.  Many citizens are trying to sustain their homes and families with less revenue this year.  I think it is unjust for us to turn around and vote to charge more in taxes when with that tax increase the average citizen will not see or feel an increase in services.  It is no secret that a large sum of money will need to go to rising insurance costs for city employees.
Amen.
Hearing is at 6:30. Show up and be heard.

City of West Bend Budget Public Hearing Tomorrow

In a year that was pretty bad financially for a lot of people, the City of West Bend Common Council is looking to pass a 5% property tax levy increase to help cover pay increases and shrink the employee contributions for health insurance.

Some of the pay increases already enacted this year were a $12,124 (11%) increase for the police chief and a $12,642 (12%) increase for the fire chief. The new budget has across the board pay increases and seeks to cover a big increase in health insurance costs while also decreasing the percentage that employees pay for it. A Common Council dominated by former public employees seems intent on shoving taxpayer money into the pockets of government employees as quickly as possible.

The public hearing is tomorrow at 6:30 in the City of West Bend Common Council chambers. Show up and be heard.

 

Tax Raisers Dominate West Bend Common Council

Here we go again… From the Washington County Insider:

November 4, 2020 – West Bend, WI – There will be a public hearing Monday, November 9 prior to the West Bend Common Council voting on a tax increase for 2021.

[…]

During Monday night’s meeting the proposed tax increase was dropped from a .09 cent increase to .08 which brings the proposed tax rate to $7.93. That is a $248,000 increase from 2020’s budget total of $24,246,478.

The 2021 total budget and accompanying details were not part of tonight’s agenda packet.

Readers might remember (probably not) that I rung the warning bell last year when they raised property taxes for the first time in a decade when they didn’t even need to.

November 11, 2019 – West Bend, WI – The West Bend Common Council voted 5-3 Monday night to increase the mill rate to $7.85 per thousand dollars. That’s 6 cents per thousand more than 2019 and will raise taxes on residents whether their property increased in value or remained the same.

If you want to know where they are spending those higher taxes that they intend to impose on the property tax payers of West Bend, look no further than employee benefits:

  • Health insurance for a family non-union coverage is $250 per month for 2020 with a $5,000 deductible in network
  • On a percentage for a family the employee is paying 14% of the premium and the taxpayers are covering 86%
  • The new 2021 proposal for a family jumps $20 to $270 a month however the family is now paying 13% and 87% will be covered by taxpayers.

The overall budget is going up $248k to cover a $255k increase in health insurance costs and employees will pay a lower share of their health insurance premium.

There is a core of former public employees on the Council who see it as their job to transfer money from the taxpayers into the pockets of public employees. They will continue to increase taxes every year because that’s what they do. West Bend is returning to the bad old days of annual tax increases, increasing debt, and nothing to show for it.

Mayor Christoph Jenkins had this to say, but he only gets a vote if there is a tie on the council. Call your Alderperson. They meet on Monday.

My Fellow West Benders,

This letter is to update you on the final steps of the City of West Bend’s 2021 Budget.

First, thank you to Administration, Department Heads, and our Finance Director for helping to put together our 2021 Budget. The annual budget lays a foundation for what we look to accomplish moving forward and supports our overarching goals. The budget is a collaborative effort, and inevitably in this effort there’s not always 100% agreement. The City Council recently sat down for an in-depth roundtable discussion on the budget, and many ideas, thoughts, and questions were shared. While sometimes at odds with each other, we all work for and represent the City of West Bend, and our residents are blessed to have a group of people advocating for them in such a strong manner.

As it stands recommended, the City of West Bend would see an 8-cent tax increase moving from 7.85 to 7.93. This would result in the average $200k valued home seeing a $16 increase in the City portion of their taxes. Though this is a nominal effect, as I stated at the roundtable, it is not a levy increase I am in favor of for our taxpayers.

There are certainly good things planned and budgeted for next year; these include, body cameras for our police officers, critically important in this ever-polarizing world, a $3 million increase in road bonding to tackle our main thoroughfares, and CARES Act grant funding that covers the cost of operating our taxi service for those in need. We also face challenges – an ever-increasing employee health insurance policy, increased tax incremental financing district obligations, and continued desire to recruit top-talent to serve the great City of West Bend. In the end, many requests for funding were made from department heads, and a total of $1 Million in requested funds were removed.

We have seen and continue to see astounding growth, economic development, and investment in our City. Accounting for our increase in net new construction and overall value, even with taxes stable at 7.85, the City would net an increase of $909k of revenue. At the proposed 7.93 rate, we see an increase of about $240k of additional revenues. I believe closing a $240k gap to prevent pushing more of a burden on to our taxpayers is a drop in the bucket in a roughly $25M annual budget. Our Finance Chair, Alderman Meghann Kennedy, has been diligent in asking tough questions and brainstorming solutions to adjust these budgeted costs. Many Aldermen have continued to dig deeper throughout this process, and we have been open to feedback and ideas on all fronts.

Our residents, businesses, and property owners continue to experience one of the most challenging years ever. An ongoing pandemic and uncertainty in the economy has led to increased cost of doing business, reduced revenues, furloughing, or laying off employees, and upending our way of doing things. We, as a City of West Bend organization, have been blessed to not have to go to these harsh lengths to continue the high-level of service and operations. But in the end, I do not feel it’s right at a time like this in our history, for the City to ask for more when others have had to sacrifice or work with less. We are truly in this together, and my hope is the City can do our part and keep this tax rate stable.

As is the case every year, there is an opportunity for YOU to make your voice heard to your elected officials. Monday, November 9th at 6:30PM at City Hall will be our Public Hearing on the budget where you can do so. In addition, you may contact your Alderman to ask questions or share thoughts and ideas, by visiting: https://www.ci.west-bend.wi.us/government/elected_officials/common_council.php

Stay informed, stay safe, and stay positive. There are always good things to look forward to in the great City of West Bend.

 

Christophe E. Jenkins

 

West Bend Police to Send Officers to Milwaukee for Convention

Call me less optimistic than Chief Meuler about Milwaukee officials supporting the police. I’m very wary of putting West Bend’s finest in harms way to protect another city’s residents. Perhaps some other city leaders will weigh in.

West Bend Police Chief Kenneth Meuler said he remains committed to sending about a dozen officers for the effort.

“I am confident that Chief Morales and city officials will work out an agreement to address the concerns that some of the other chiefs have raised,” said Meuler, a former Milwaukee Police Department captain.

West Bend Cancels Summer

The Common Council is cancelling summer events in public parks. More From the Washington County Insider:

All community events in West Bend Parks are cancelled for summer 2020.

On Monday, May 18, West Bend City Administrator Jay Shambeau presented a resolution to the Washington-Ozaukee County Public Health Department Blueprint for reopening Washington and Ozaukee Counties. The resolution passed on a 7-1 vote with Alderperson Mark Allen voting against. The Blueprint does not allow for community events, therefore, West Bend Biergarten, German Night and Regner Fest have all been cancelled for the summer of 2020.

And a bit more from the Washington County Daily News

The Common Council created a resolution stating that the city will follow guidance from the Washington Ozaukee County Public Health Department. This includes the Blueprint to Reopen and FAQ relating to the blueprint. The resolution encompasses future amendments and guidance to reopening services and activities.

In addition, the city will acquire all guidance from the health department in reviewing all permit and license applications, including special event permits, block closing, parade permits and temporary Class B beer license applications

So I think this means that they will be using their permit power to restrict businesses, but there isn’t any other enforcement. The Ozaukee Washington County Health Department says:

If you choose to reopen your business, you are not in violation of Safer at Home or orders issued by the health department. Under the direction of the Ozaukee County Board Chair, the Ozaukee County Administrator, and the Washington County Executive, the Washington Ozaukee Public Health Department will issue no countywide orders limiting the public or businesses at this time in response to the current status of the COVID-19 pandemic in our counties. The health department will address any localized COVID-19 outbreaks on an individual basis and continue to provide follow up for positive cases and contact tracing. We urge you to refer to our Blueprint FAQ for recommendations on how to safely reopen our counties. Email covid19@washozwi.gov if you have any other questions.

What does all this mean? I’m not really sure. I think that the West Bend Common Council may revise permits with different compliance requirements in line with the Blueprint. Then, if a business violates the permit, they can pull the permit.

We’ll see how this is implemented in real life, but it is incredibly disappointing that the strong majority of the West Bend Common Council and the new mayor are looking to micromanage businesses. Where am I? Madison?

 

UPDATE: Here is a comment from the mayor:

No, the Council’s adoption of the County blueprint does not affect anything to do with private businesses. We also did not “cancel everything” throughout the Summer. This simply gave health guidance to our municipal organization as a whole. Splash pad will be open. Parks are open. We are looking at ways to hold fireworks (just as Kewaskum and Hartford are). We are working with non-profits to help them draft ways to hold events (like Germanfest). And, most importantly, as with every organization, this is an ever-evolving situation. We wouldn’t cancel events that are 2 months away, as who knows where things will be at by then.

West Bend Continues to Bow to Madison as Hartford Propels Forward

This is a disappointingly sheepish position.

While remaining open, West Bend has complied with the Safer at Home Executive Orders throughout all departments and is actively preparing for the Badger Bounce Back plan. “West Bend takes great pride in being a business-friendly community and we’re committed to supporting businesses throughout this process,” said Mayor Christophe E. Jenkins. “We’re actively working with businesses to propel them forward.”

The Police Department has worked with citizens and businesses to educate them on the Safer at Home Order and to seek their voluntary compliance. West Bend businesses have been directed to the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) for clarification and questions on compliance regarding the State’s Emergency Health Orders. In a number of cases, WEDC was able to guide businesses to remain open in compliance with the orders. The City is grateful for the understanding and support that citizens and businesses have shown.

Business owners who have specific questions or concerns regarding the Safer at Home Order may contact WEDC. Residents may contact their state legislators.

I would have hoped that the City of West Bend would have taken a more muscular approach to protecting our rights and supporting the local economy.

Randy Koehler Throws Hat in for District 4

Koehler is a solid choice for West Bend.

April 15, 2020 – West Bend, WI – The West Bend Common Council will be in a familiar situation in the coming weeks as it looks to fill a vacancy in District 4.

Earlier this week unofficial April 7, 2020 election results showed Chris Jenkins winning the mayoral post for the City of West Bend. Jenkins had been alderman in Dist. 4.

In the past the Council filled a vacancy by appointment. As of Tuesday afternoon, there was already one candidate in the mix as Randy Koehler contacted the city clerk.

Koehler has past experience with the city; he was the alderman in Dist. 4 from 2011 to April 2015. Koehler always maintained a strong conservative stance and listened to his constituents. Koehler was also popular with city staff, visiting individual departments and learning how the city worked.

Koehler’s term ended when he lost his seat to Jenkins in 2015.

Rich Kasten for Mayor of West Bend

I had intended to write my column for this week about the various offices on the ballot, but the pandemic took precedence.  With the April election being impacted by Coronavirus, I hope you are all voting early or absentee – just in case. Next week’s column will cover several races, but with the word limit, it will be necessarily light on explanation for each race. I think that several races require a fuller discussion, so here we go…

There are two candidates for West Bend Mayor: Rich Kasten and Chris Jenkins. Both of them are currently Aldermen for the city. I wrote a column a couple of months ago with some details on their backgrounds. After a lot of thought, I voted for Rich Kasten (yes, I already voted).

I like both men. They are both conservative, smart, pragmatic, and passionate about serving the community. They have both been assets on the Common Council and helped lead the city in a positive direction. For me, the decision came down to two factors.

First, Kasten is a bit older and more experienced. I worked with him years ago on a task force of some kind and he’s been my representative on the council for years. I’ve seen his patient, thoughtful work first hand. I’ve seen him get things done while building consensus along the way. He’s just been around a bit more; seen a bit more; and experienced a bit more. I have found occasion to disagree with him from time to time, but his decisions are always well thought out and rooted in conservatism and the best interests of the community.

Second, and this really came into clarity for me with the Coronavirus shutdown, Kasten works in the private sector and has for decades. His coworkers are in the private sector. His friends work in the private sector. He sees and lives with the consequences of government action and inaction every day. Particularly as the people and businesses of the City of West Bend recover from the government-forced recession, I am more comfortable with a Mayor who is living it like the rest of us. I have no doubt that Jenkins’ heart is in the right place, but he only worked for a short time in the private sector. He currently works for a government and serves/has served in multiple government positions. As conservative a someone might personally be, being a government employee brings with it a different mindset.

Rich Kasten has been a great Alderman and he’ll be an even better Mayor of West Bend.

West Bend to Choose a New Mayor

Since the blog was down on Tuesday, I forgot to post this. Here is my column that ran in the Washington County Daily News earlier in the week.

The citizens of West Bend will choose between two candidates for mayor on April 7. Rich Kasten and Chris Jenkins are both conservatives on West Bend’s Common Council. I supported both candidates when they ran for city office. Both candidates have committed to continuing the trajectory of conservative leadership in West Bend. Where they differ is on experience and priorities.

Chris Jenkins is a 2007 West Bend West graduate, husband and father of five children, and earned degrees in theology and political science. Jenkins has been active in the community and his church throughout his adult life. After working in the private sector for a few years, he accepted the job of the village administrator, clerk, and treasurer for the village of Elmwood Park in 2018. Jenkins also serves as the president of West Bend Early-Risers Kiwanis, president of Musical Masquers, public affairs specialist for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and the elected positions of District Four county supervisor for Washington County and District Four alderman for the city of West Bend. He is not running for re-election for county supervisor and he has another year left in his term as alderman.

If elected, Jenkins has said that his focus will be on launching a collaborative community-driven process to refresh the city’s strategic plan modeled after the Value Task Force used at the dawn of former Mayor Kraig Sadownikow. From there, Jenkins is committed to fiscal discipline and conservative leadership. Rich Kasten graduated from Marquette University with a degree in mechanical engineering in 1991 and moved to West Bend with his wife 21 years ago to raise their three children. Kasten has worked in the private sector in technical and management roles having spent the last 11 years at a Wisconsin cheese company. He is finishing his third term as the District Five alderman for the city of West Bend (my current alderman) where he chaired the Finance, Public Works, and Long Range Transportation committees. As alderman, Kasten earned a reputation as a fiscal watchdog with a deep knowledge of the underlying data. He also worked on the team to negotiate union contracts on behalf of the city, volunteered for the West Bend Crime Prevention Patrol, and worked on a Citizen Financial Advisory Committee for the West Bend School District.

If elected mayor, Kasten wants to work with Washington County on a plan to share the county sales tax with municipalities and leverage his experience on transportation issues to develop creative ways to stretch the city’s transportation and infrastructure dollars. Like Jenkins, Kasten wants to get more members of the community involved in developing the city’s strategic direction.

Since there are only two candidates, there will not be a primary election for mayor. Each candidate will have until April 7 to make his case to the voters. As we look forward to the next chapter in West Bend’s history, there are challenges and opportunities that the next mayor will need to tackle.

West Bend has been a city in transition. Since the manufacturing heydays of the 1970s and 1980s, the city’s economy has blossomed in the financial services and technical industries. With the recent annexation of land for a new industrial park on the south side, the next mayor will need to be a passionate and effective ambassador to lure businesses. Part of that will be ensuring that the city’s core infrastructure remains satisfactory.

Another area of focus should be preventing crime and punishing criminals. The West Bend police do a phenomenal job, but their jobs are getting harder. West Bend is not a sleepy Mayberry. It is a vibrant community with people moving in and out of it to work and play. The highways that connect us to the rest of the state also serve as conduits for criminals, drugs, human trafficking, and other contagions to augment the local criminal element. West Bend needs to be proactive and energetic in ensuring the safety of the people and property of West Bend.

The city has done a good job in the last several years of putting the city’s fiscal house in order. The mayor and Common Council have dramatically lowered debt, improved the city’s bond rating, kept spending and taxes stable, and avoided the worst of the long-term unfunded liabilities. But that was after decades of increasing spending, increasing taxes, and running up debt. It only takes one vote to squander years of good fiscal management. The next mayor must never relent in protecting the taxpayers from the worst impulses of people who relish spending other people’s money.

Chris Jenkins or Rich Kasten will have the privilege of leading West Bend into what could be a transformational decade. It won’t be easy. Who is ready for it?

Tax increasers take control of West Bend

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. Here’s a taste, but go buy the meal!

After years of fiscal restraint and conservative management of the budget, the tax increasers have regained control of the West Bend Common Council. Property owners in the city of West Bend will see their first tax increase in almost a decade. Why? Because they could.

[…]

Facing a $151,100 increase in projected expenses next year, the 2020 operating budget that was just approved by the Common Council would raise taxes to meet those expenses and put the forecasted 2019 surplus into the already well-funded reserve fund.

In short, the Common Council chose to raise taxes when they did not have to. There is more than enough tax revenue to fund the city budget, but they are going to raise taxes anyway.

Council members Andrew Chevalier, Chris Jenkins, and Rich Kasten (who is running for mayor of West Bend) voted to not raise taxes. The city of West Bend needs more council members like these.

The Common Council members who voted to raise taxes were John Butschlick, Mark Allen, Steve Hoogester (who is also serving as the interim mayor), Justice Madl, and Roger Kist. These are the men who chose to raise taxes when it was not necessary or justifiable. Butschlick’s and Madl’s seats will both be on the ballot in April. If they choose to run for re-election, the voters should remember who voted to raise their taxes.

Tax Raisers Take Over West Bend Council

Well, that was quick. After almost a decade of conservative governance and a mayor who kept spending and taxes in line, the tax increasers have been unshackled.

November 11, 2019 – West Bend, WI – The West Bend Common Council voted 5-3 Monday night to increase the mill rate to $7.85 per thousand dollars. That’s 6 cents per thousand more than 2019 and will raise taxes on residents whether their property increased in value or remained the same.

Those voting in favor of the increase were aldermen John Butschlick, Mark Allen, Steve Hoogester, Justice Madl, and Roger Kist.

Those voting against were aldermen Andrew Chevalier, Chris Jenkins, and Rich Kasten.

It’s not that they raised taxes. That might actually be necessary from time to time. But this wasn’t necessary. The city has the money sitting there in surplus that they could have used to keep taxes flat for another year. The council chose not to because a pervasive “we need to raise spending and taxes a little every year” attitude in the council now.

 John Butschlick, Mark Allen, Steve Hoogester, Justice Madl, and Roger Kist. You failed us. 

West Bend Common Council Appoints Interim Mayor

From the Washington County Insider:

November 4, 2019 – West Bend, WI – West Bend Common Council has unanimously voted to appoint Council President Steve Hoogester as acting mayor until the April 7, 2020 election.

According to City Attorney Ian Prust, said Hoogester can still retain his seat as District 6 alderman and he does not have to run for council again just by taking this post.

Prust said, should there be a tie vote on an issue, Hoogester has to notify the council ahead of time that he will abstain as alderman to make a vote as mayor.

City administrator Jay Shambeau and Prust said a tie situation would be extremely rare as a council member would need to be absent to create a situation for a tie vote to occur.

This seems like a good way to address the issue.

Picking an Interim Mayor in West Bend

From the Washington County Insider:

October 31, 2019 – West Bend, WI – On Monday, Nov. 4 the West Bend Common Council will hold a special meeting at 5 p.m. The hot topic will be, Discussion on the Vacancy Created by the Resignation of the City of West Bend Mayor  2. Filling the Office of Mayor

On Monday, Oct. 21, 2019, at the West Bend Common Council meeting Mayor Kraig Sadownikow announced he was resigninghis seat effective immediately. Sadownikow stepped down citing a conflict between his business and his position with the City.

The state has a legal process on filling the vacant mayoral seat, which comes up for election April 7, 2020.

City administrator Jay Shambeau said filling the seat will “not be an easy answer to come to.”

There are several options on the table; the council can appoint the council president or an alderman or a citizen from the City.

Wouldn’t it be fun if they appointed Sadownikow as the interim mayor?

Mayor Sadownikow returns to private life after a job well done

Sometimes you don’t really appreciate something until it is gone. That about sums up how I feel about Mayor Sadownikow’s tenure as West Bend’s mayor. My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. Here’s a part:

When Governor Scott Walker lost, there was a real sense that something special had come to an end. I felt much the same way when I learned that West Bend Mayor Kraig Sadownikow had resigned to avoid the reality or appearance of a conflict of interest. Mayor Sadownikow was a wonderful example of the citizen self-governance at its best.

When Sadownikow first ran for office, he did so to fix a problem in his home town. As the owner of a local design and build construction company, Sadownikow worked with municipalities throughout Wisconsin and knew first hand that West Bend was a difficult place to do business. He set out with a goal of bringing private sector principles into local government to get West Bend to move at the speed of business.

Up until then, West Bend was run like most Wisconsin municipalities. The local government denizens generally worked hard to not rock the boat. Taxes were steadily increased. The continual borrowing had put West Bend in the bottom 10% of local governments in the state in terms of debt burden. Businesses and homeowners alike chafed whenever they had to deal with local bureaucrats.

Mayor Sadownikow entered office with a fresh perspective of a first-time office holder who wanted to make his city serve the public better. He began by “asking questions that were never asked before,” as he is fond of saying. Through hard work and the cooperation of a conservative, engaged majority on the Common Council, Sadownikow began to change West Bend’s story for the better. The list of accomplishments is impressive for eight years in office.

[…]

There are already signs that West Bend is slipping back into its old ways. There is a band of Alderpersons who would rather go back to increasing taxes each year to avoid making hard decisions. The Common Council votes on the 2020 budget next week and we will know very soon how sorely Mayor Sadownikow’s leadership will be missed if the tax increasers get their way.

Mayor Sadownikow said, “Local government is not that hard. Maintain a safe community; look out for the future; and take care of the checkbook.” He certainly accomplished those three things and more. His successor should heed that advice.

Some Aldermen Push for Unnecessary Tax Increase

Take note, Benders.

Shambeau’s original presentation projected a $7.85 tax rate for 2020, which is the amount a property owner pays in city taxes per $1,000 of property value. At the Finance Committee, Shambeau was directed to rework the budget to hold the tax rate flat and use the fund balance to make up the difference. That after Mayor Kraig Sadownikow said there was about $500,000 left over in the budget.

At Monday’s council meeting, Alderman Justice Madl proposed returning the budget to the original presentation, including the 6-cent change.

The motion fell after the eight-member council tied on the vote, and Sadownikow voted against the motion.

Madl and Aldermen John Butschlok, Mark Allen and Steve Hoogester voted to revert the budget, with Aldermen Andrew Chevalier, Chris Jenkins, Rich Kasten and Roger Kist voting against.

“I don’t support making that change,” Madl said of using fund balance.

After years of work, the reserve fund is flush. There’s no reason to raise taxes so that they can keep adding to it.

Sadownikow Looks Back

There’s a nice story in the Washington County Daily News with West Bend Mayor Kraig Sadownikow reflecting on his time in office. A couple of statements really jumped out at me:

“I am super proud that we’ve cut the city’s debt almost in half; we went from about $85 million in debt to just below $50 in debt now and still continuing to decrease, while we increased our savings account by over 300 percent,” Sadownikow said. “The actual cost of doing business in West Bend is lower now than in 2011 when I was elected, so we’ve been able to do some fiscally prudent things that allows us as a community to start investing in fun things, like the riverfront, that can make a quality of life impact because we did some belt tightening over the last five to six years or so.”

[…]

“Right after I was elected, one of our state politicians called to congratulate me and said, ‘Remember, all you have to do is make 50 percent plus one person happy to be successful in politics,’” he said. “I thought, ‘No way, I live here; I grocery shop in West Bend and I need to shoot a heck of a lot higher.’ “So hopefully a significant majority can look back and say, ‘whether I love or hate the guy, at a bare minimum he worked hard and worked honestly.’”