Hello Tomah. Well it’s that time of year when we start to transition from fall to winter. Our crews have been busy winterizing our equipment and preparing for whatever old man winter throws our way this year. As usual we prepare for the worst and hope for the best.
We have seen an extraordinarily wet summer and are hoping that does not lead to a harsh winter. We will watch and see together. One of the aspects of preparing for winter conditions is partially guess work on our part. After all, no one knows how much snow and ice we may get, so it’s up to us to procure enough salt and sand to handle whatever conditions we meet. This and many other variables affect what I want to write about this month: the budget.
If you have noticed, we here at the city have been working with many different entities to promote new construction and expansion of business either existing or new to our community. A drive down Grain Avenue will bring you to the new site for Mill Haven Foods, a multi-million dollar processing facility that just this last year chose to commit the new construction to the Tomah area. We are very pleased to have the members of Mill Haven with us and happy to announce they plan on a ribbon cutting ceremony Nov. 10 at 11 a.m. at the facility. It’s an impressive building, and if you get the chance stop by and welcome the Slaters and other members of their company to Tomah you won’t be disappointed.
Along with Mill Haven we have seen the construction of the new apartment complex on Veterans Street and a host of other projects scattered throughout town. This new growth is key to moving Tomah forward as the vibrant community we all want us to be. And I am glad to take a moment to tell you it’s working and working well. In a recent article from the market analysis firm Zippia, Tomah was ranked number six in the best Cities in Wisconsin to live and work in. That’s a strong endorsement for our city and one we should all be proud of.
Now some may think I am getting off track. After all I said we would talk about the budget. Yes, but I prefaced it with saying that many factors affect the budget, and new construction is a very large factor in the equation to be sure. Without it we would stagnate and not realize any increase in our assessed value within the city. In simpler terms, cities that don’t grow don’t realize increase in revenue from that growth and have to turn to taxation on property to recoup that revenue. So I am fairly confident we can all agree that new growth is good and higher taxes are bad.
To that end let me throw some numbers out for your general information. First off, as a result of ACT 10, when we begin the budget cycle we are required to stay under a percentage assigned by the state called the expenditure restraint. This number is determined at the state level and is based on our growth and the Consumer Price Index increase or decrease. So how does that affect our budget? Here’s an example. In 2016 when I prepared the budget, my restraint number was 1.5 percent, and the CPI was slightly lower last year as well. This year the CPI is slightly higher, and the big change is our restraint number is 3.3 percent − over double last year’s number.
To see how that relates to our city is this: In the past year alone, the city had an increase in its assessed valuation − that is the worth of property within the city − of $45,684,326 or a growth of 7.61 percent. How this affects you and me, the homeowner, is that last year we set the mill rate, the amount of money you and I get taxed per $100,000.00 of property we own, at $8.58 this year; that same mill rate is set at $7.93 or a $.65 decrease. Well done, Tomah. This is where we have been working so hard to get to over the last several years, and I and the city staff couldn’t be more pleased with these numbers. When the recession showed signs of wavering off, no one knew where the economy would land. In Tomah it landed not only on its feet but it took off running and it is not looking back. Why do I say that? Well let’s take a look.
Recently I was informed by my building inspector that a new building will be taking place on the north end of town. We know that it will have a capacity for two new businesses, which creates more growth. As said in past articles, the growth of Tomah Memorial Hospital will spark new growth interest on the south end of town. I am pleased to say that the city has been petitioned by the owner of the land between the interstate and Gopher Avenue for annexation into the city. We have had talks with the owners and know they are looking to commercially develop the property. This has been where my administration has had its goals set from the beginning. We all know how well our north end is doing, and I will continue to pursue every opportunity that presents itself, but we now have an opportunity to grow our south side, and I intend to utilize that opportunity for the betterment of Tomah.
So if I can step back and take a moment. The word “I” keeps popping up, so let me clarify one thing. This is no one-man show. I am the administrator, and I do have responsibility to our council and citizens to be as vigilant as possible when it comes to matters of the city and, believe me, I am all of that. I am also tasked with having a vision for the city and maintaining healthy growth of our economy. However, I have a very talented group of individuals working with me who put their heart and souls into this city every day, and I want them to be acknowledged. I have said it before, and I say it again, no administrator could wish for a better staff than the group of individuals I am privileged to work with daily.
So what’s next, Tomah? As an ex-Navy man I say, “Darn the torpedoes and full speed ahead.” As a city we continue to grow our tax base through expansion of business and new construction. We promote our city with enthusiasm and relate to others just how special it is to live in Tomah. For our part, the city will continue to explore avenues of interests and amenities to provide to our residents and hopefully attract new ones. Our bike path extension to the west will be finished in early spring next year. Parks and Recreation Director Joe Protz and I have planned to place a splash pad at our aquatic center to accommodate our younger patrons. The downtown restroom facility will be online in the spring. We have volunteer and civic groups that look to donate generously to the city. The future is wide open for us and, as always, all we need to do is roll our sleeves up and put our backs into it. Nothing comes without an investment of time and energy, and I see an abundance of that around me everywhere I go in Tomah.
That’s about all I have for now. Remember winter is nearly upon us. Please be safe on the roads and keep your eyes out as the time changes and the daylight hours shorten. As a reminder, my office is always open to anyone who wants to stop by. One last thing: This week is Veterans Day. We owe so much to those men and women who have served, so you may want to extend just a friendly word of thanks for all their service and sacrifice.
Stay safe, Tomah. See you next month.
Roger Gorius is city administrator for the city of Tomah.