Tag Archives: Kraig Sadownikow

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.

 

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.

 

Mayor Sadownikow Testifies About Dark Store

West Bend’s mayor is testifying in front of the state’s Ways and Means Committee today regarding the “Dark Store” theory of property taxation. Here is his testimony in full.

Chairman Macco and Committee on Ways and Means:

Thank you for taking time to solicit comments from the public regarding this important topic.   I have been Mayor in West Bend for a bit over 6 years and was re-elected to a 3rd term in April.

In West Bend, we have an intelligent constituency that pays attention to their local governmental activities.  They see the City, Washington County and our local School District working hard to offer the best possible service at the lowest possible cost.  They see us prioritize and invest in the most important roles of government, making difficult decisions often at the expense of less critical operations.  They see us respecting their tax dollars and they have confidence we invest wisely into our community.  I have spoken to hundreds of people about this topic from around the full spectrum of political leanings.  They understand the Dark Store Theory and Walgreen challenges to assessments put at risk the financial stability of communities in Wisconsin.  They know current law will place an undue burden on small business, manufacturing, agriculture and homeowners.

As the old saying goes “You don’t know what you don’t know”.  No one knew this loophole existed, nor did anyone know the dramatic negative ramifications that would result from the discovery of this loophole. Congratulations goes to the accountants and attorneys who discovered and are benefiting from finding it.  I hold no ill will toward the businesses who are, on behalf of their organizations, exploiting this flaw in legislation.  I don’t think it is a coincidence West Bend has gone decades with little more than a handful of assessment challenges per year, mainly residential and then 3-4 years ago, BAM we are hit with Walgreens, Meijer, WalMart, Shopko, Menards..all challenging 50-60 and in some cases almost 70% ?  Of course that is not a coincidence, it is when they found the loophole.  They brought it to our attention, fortunately we now know about it and I ask you and the Legislature to close it.

In West Bend, we have two Walgreens stores that recently sold for a combined $14,000,000.  Walgreens challenged and won.  They are now assessed at a combined $4,800,000.  This approximate $9,000,000 drop equates to about $180,000 to our taxing bodies.  In fact, the West Bend School District had to cut a check back to Walgreens for about $80,000 and is experiencing a permanent revenue reduction on an annual basis equating to more than an FTE teaching position.  The free and open market said the buildings are worth $14,000,000.  Walgreens attorneys and current Wisconsin Loophole says they are worth about 1/3rd of that.  Quite honestly, I trust the free market more than Walgreen’s attorneys.

Meijer opened a new 200,000 square foot facility just a few weeks ago.  They paid $6,000,000 for the land and their initial assessment stands at $20,000,000.  Even before they opened their store and the ribbon was cut, before they ever paid a full tax bill, their attorneys filed a challenge demanding an assessment of $9,000,000.  The difference between what they paid for the property and their demanded assessment is $3,000,000 or $15 per square foot of building, ridiculously low.  Left unchecked, this kind of strategy is damaging to Wisconsin and I ask you to make it stop.

In addition to the examples above, West Bend has assessment challenges from WalMart, Menard’s and ShopKo, I hear rumblings of others as well.  The slippery slope appears to have no ending.

Walgreens and Meijer are not being asked to pay someone else’s property tax, just their own, under the same format Wisconsin has been using for decades.  I would like them to stop demanding that we pay theirs.

This important legislation knows no political boundaries.  I ask each of you to support the passage of these bills, quickly, for the benefit of Wisconsin.

Thank you for your time.

 

Sincerely,

Kraig K. Sadownikow

Mayor

City of West Bend, WI

 

A Message From Our Mayor

It has been 6 years since this community first trusted then elected me to be its’ Mayor.  Thank you for re-electing me to a 3rd term this past week.  Even though I ran unopposed, I used the occasion to reflect on our recent accomplishments and to listen to the public regarding their questions about the future.  Through those discussions, several common themes arose:

  • City Staff – our leadership team has several new faces and new professionals dedicated to improving West Bend. We recently welcomed Michelle Hoey as our HR Director and Stephanie Justman as City Clerk.  Jay Shambeau, hired last fall, is up-to-speed and well on his way to being the leader of our organization.
  • New Development is strong.
    • Soon to be opened Meijer and recently opened Delta Defense corporate headquarters will be joined by a 110,000 square foot home to Extra Space Storage on the City’s south side. Located in our Corporate Center, this state of the art, climate controlled facility continues the trend of high quality new development entering our market.
    • Nationally and locally a strong point of new residential development is in the apartment and rental markets. While the City has not rezoned any new green field property for multi-family since I have been Mayor, we are seeing strong demand for new, urban, non-subsidized rental units.  Generally geared toward both empty nesters and younger aged singles we expect properties already zoned appropriately and in-fill sites to be attractive.  Staff, the Council and Plan Commission are focused on following our strategic plan(s) to ensure a positive mix of single and multi-family options are available.
  • Partnerships are a key to ensuring efficiently run operations and help create a strong link between city hall and the public.
    • After several years of planning, construction is underway on the shared Washington County/City of West Bend employee on-site health clinic. Housed at the County this partnership is a fantastic example of your governments breaking down barriers and working together for the benefit of our employees as well as the public.
    • I recently had the honor of addressing the full team of West Bend Mutual employees. This organization was born here and I am proud they choose to continue to call West Bend home.  They exemplify the very fabric of who West Bend is.  Their entrepreneurial spirit and high quality work environment is only matched by their commitment to being the best corporate citizen we could hope for.  Their nature and positive influence is felt in every corner of our community.
  • Whenever I am at a community leader conference, without exception, our strong downtown environment is brought up. Other communities are begging to find out our ‘secret’.  I let them know the formula is simple.  A strong dose of gutsy entrepreneurs combined with great cultural attractions such as MOWA and an appropriate amount of public support equals a vibrant and exciting city center campus.
    • After 4 years of planning we have reached the stage where revitalizing the east river bank is becoming a reality. Pending final community fundraising efforts, we expect the two phase project to begin in late 2017 and be completed in the spring of 2018.  This combined with improvements unveiled in 2016 will continue the one-of-a-kind rebirth of downtown West Bend.
    • Strong interest in several remaining properties east of the river have the potential of adding significant tax base, high quality development and an exciting mix of commercial and residential opportunities. Progress such as this ensures a consistent flow of users to our businesses and other amenities.
  • Finances are the backbone of what we do and also direct our future.
    • Since 2011, overall City Debt has been reduced by about 20%. Debt levels were uncomfortably high and significant efforts by staff and the Council are getting them to appropriate levels.  We have work to do but we are trending in the right direction.
    • Reserves, once dangerously low, are up about 40% since 2011 and are now within a range our advisors deem acceptable. This was a significant undertaking and will be a focus moving forward.
    • We continue to invest heavily into road maintenance. Once a line item of $750,000 we now allocate almost 40% more annually, or $1,040,000.  This increase combined with recently enacted Prevailing Wage Laws will help us continue to maintain more road miles each year.
    • Overall, the true Cost of Doing Business, our real cost of operating West Bend was 8.8% less in 2016 than it was in 2011. This means we have reduced debt, increased reserves, allocated more toward road maintenance while costing the taxpayers significantly less.  Thank you to all involved.  To me, this is how government should be run.

As we continue through 2017 and already look toward 2018 we will be working hard to ensure we are investing each dollar wisely while also planning ahead guaranteeing a strong future for West Bend.  Please stay tuned, stay involved and thank you once again for allowing me to serve.

Kraig K. Sadownikow

Mayor – City of West Bend

City of West Bend Has Come a Long Way

Below is a letter that the Mayor of West Bend, Kraig “Sat-on-a-cow” Sadownikow, sent to the council. Watching the city has been a bit boring in the past few years precisely because they have just been being fiscally responsible and good stewards of the taxpayers’ money. Now we are seeing some of the rewards. West Bend is in infinitely better financial shape than almost every other city and the services provided by the city are still more that sufficient. It can be done. Kudos to the mayor, council members, and city staff for their leadership. I’d like to see some of this kind of leadership over at the school district and county…

Hello Council – I know municipal numbers are boring to most people, but the discussion last night about the City’s Fund Balance was really important. 

In 2011 and ‘12 we had an 11% Fund Balance.  This means 11% of our annual budget was in a reserve account for emergencies.  Moody’s Bond Rating Agency along with Baker Tilley, our Financial Consultants recommend a minimum of 17% otherwise our bond rating was in jeopardy.  These are not small dollars.  Each 1% equates to about $250,000.  Moreover many comparable municipalities are in the 25-30% range…….we really had a long way to go.

The Council took action in 2013/14, to put in place a policy that forced us to grow to the minimum of 17% and then requiring public action to drop below that amount in the future.  We hit 17% in 2015 and have grown to the 22% we are at now……..basically doubled our reserves in 4 years, adding about $2,500,000.  This was accomplished without raising taxes, while also increasing funding for Road Improvements by 40% over the same time,  while reducing City debt by over 20%, while maintaining a competitive salary and benefit package for employees and maintaining high quality services for our constituents.

Congratulations and Thank You to all of you along with our staff.  This work will begin paying financial dividends in the near future.

Additionally, I took a look at unemployment statistics recently and found that  November unemployment was 3.2%…….5th best of the 32 largest communities in the State.  Top 3 are usually Sun Prairie, Madison and Fitchburg due to UW and State gov’t…..we beat communities like Neenah, Appleton, Brookfield, etc.  In March of 2011 we were at 11.1% and 3rd worst in the State, only ahead of Racine and Beloit.

While the pure unemployment rate is better for everyone, the key in West Bend is our skyrocketing up the chart comparing us to other ‘large’ cities in WI.  Really good trend.

I know spending money is more fun than not and saving money is harder than buying new things but the decisions we have made in the recent past are putting West Bend in a better financial position for the future….hopefully the near future.  Because we have made sound financial decisions, the rebounding economy and increased development will compound our positive trends.

Every constituent, staff member, alderman and even Mayor has a ‘pet project’ or two that they feel strongly about.  Let’s stay focused on investing in items that have a long term benefit to the wellbeing of West Bend and are prioritized in order of Public Safety, Infrastructure and Quality of Life.

Thank you again for working hard to leave West Bend in an even better position than we found it.

Mayor Weighs in on War on Police

A word from the Mayor of West Bend:

July 12, 2016

My entire life, I have respected police officers, sheriff deputies and other law enforcement professionals.  As a child, I looked up to them and as an adult I value their important and necessary role in society.

Their profession requires a certain amount of danger and risk which most of us do not encounter where we work.  In the past I felt as though that risk was a known entity, that upon entering the public safety arena it was well known danger was part of the job.  Those who could accept that risk went on to honorable careers.  Those who could not, chose another field of work.  I felt these men and women signed up for the job, knowing full well the risks involved.

I felt that way until recently when the risks changed significantly.  Unfortunately, it appears as though the new job description of a law enforcement officer must now include shouldering the burden of being singled out, labeled a racist, and worst of all accept the role of being hunted down simply for wearing the uniform.  Thank you to those who, in spite of this, continue to serve.

Today’s societal condition reminds me of Vietnam Veterans coming home after serving our country.  Many arrived and were welcomed with violence and hate.  Today, just as then we need strong leaders who have the dignity and grace to cut through political party affiliations and speak simply, as Americans.  Fortunately, veterans have regained their rightful place as the best of the best and are revered and respected, just as they should be.  That change in attitude took leadership.

Once again, we find ourselves looking for leaders and what a shame it is to see those at the highest levels of government refusing to engage properly.  It is not an accident neither our President nor Secretary Clinton can bring themselves to condemn recent actions. It is not an accident the Black Lives Matter organization does not speak of strengthening the family, promoting personal responsibility or championing change through education (Please see blacklivesmatter.com to view their agenda for yourselves).

None of these are accidents, rather, they are an integral part of the lifeblood of the far left wing.  Politicians supporting these motives cannot afford to allow others to know the benefits of a unified family, to discover the value of a great education or the joy of financial freedom.  They know once a suppressed population is freed it will embrace principles of a limited government and will have achieved the American Dream, offering more opportunity to their children than they had themselves.  The far left knows this would eliminate the need for politicians like these who rely on vulnerable and angry populations for their very existence.

As Americans, our goal should be to help each person realize they are intelligent, significant and important members of society.  All lives have meaning and our leaders should invest in teaching those in need how to achieve their full potential, whatever that potential may be.  It is infinitely inspirational to hear stories of those who fought against incredible odds and now enjoy a life of self-sufficiency.  To lead in this manner is not racist.  To lead in this manner takes courage, courage our present day leaders don’t have.

I am willing to respectfully debate dozens of topics with those whom I have political differences in order to strengthen my own beliefs and understand more fully the positions of others.  However, the support of racist acts by our President and Secretary Clinton only serve to re-segregate our country and undermine the progress made over the past decades.  There is no debating the dishonor of their inaction.

I ask the citizens of West Bend and Washington County to be courageous leaders and do two things.  First, when you see a man or woman in uniform, sincerely thank them. Second, regardless of where you view yourself politically, don’t fall victim to the narrative of hate.  Let’s knock off the idea that hate ever cured anything, it hasn’t.

Remember we are Americans, the leaders of the world.  Let’s act like it.

Kraig K. Sadownikow

Mayor

City of West Bend

Mayor Sadownikow’s Testimony

The hearing about prevailing wage is taking place today. West Bend’s mayor is testifying. Here is his testimony. This is my favorite line:

“Allow the laws of Supply and Demand to dictate the cost of construction, not the laws of Prevailing Wage.”