Tuesday, April 4 is election day in Wisconsin.
The spring election is non-partisan, which means no office is associated with a political party. If you are a politics junkie, the closest you can come to a political race is for the Wisconsin Supreme Court is between a conservative and a liberal. All other elections are for local elected officials. Another function of the spring election is a time for local municipalities and school districts to put referendums before the people.
The Village of Lake Hallie has two referendums before voters April 4. Referendums are often called questions. The first question on the ballot is to allow the Village of Lake Hallie to exceed the levy limit by an additional $110,000 for the purpose of funding the Village’s law enforcement-related expenses to include increasing the full-time officer staffing. If approved, this amount will increase the village’s levy on an ongoing basis.
People are also reading…
The second question to appear on the ballot is to allow the Village of Lake Hallie to exceed the levy limit by an additional $700,000 for the purpose of obligatory public safety debt service ($235,000) and village road improvements ($465,000). If approved, this amount will increase the village’s levy on an ongoing basis.
The reason for these referendums is simple. In 2006, the Wisconsin Legislature capped increases of a municipal tax levy based on net new construction. In short, if you do not have much new construction in your community, you have a problem. The Legislature lets you borrow money but that increases debt, which is also capped.
If one year your community builds 100 new houses, next year you had better build 102 more. Complicated yes; a good idea no. The Village of Lake Hallie is growing but the net new construction last year was 2%. You are very aware the cost of living has gone up more than 2%. So, the referendum questions are on the ballot.
Question 1 asks the residents to fund a new police officer position. Police Chief Edward Oregon is planning for future growth of the village and an increased need for services. The Village of Lake Hallie has a large commercial center. Since I arrived in Hallie in 1976, the question of funding the police and how many officers to have has been a hot topic. The topic has cooled down over the years but the need for police services has increased.
People do not try and settle issues by themselves like they used to. People call the cops quicker and ask them to intervene more often. Add to that drug and mental health issues, responses to alarms, medical emergencies, traffic concerns and domestic abuse all make for a busier police force.
One member of the public inquired why more part time or reserve members were not used. Students graduating from Chippewa Valley Technical College’s law enforcement programs are looking for full-time work. If you hire a part-time or reserve officer, by the time they are fully trained, they move on to something else.
Question 2 asks for more money for roads and to pay off Chippewa Fire District debt. The Chippewa Fire District has a recurring debt of $250,000 per year until 2028. The village share of that debt is $105,000 per year. The Chippewa Fire District has been fiscally conservative by wise use of debt to fund new fire trucks. It has smoothed out the debt over a 15-year period. Yet costs continue to go up, in part because the Wisconsin Legislature refuses to expand Medicaid uncollected revenue for Emergency Medical Services for Medicaid patients.
When a municipal budget gets tight, the funds come out of repairing and building roads. That budget has taken major hits over the years. The Village of Lake Hallie currently repairs and maintains 90 miles of roads. New roads in subdivisions are paid for by developers. Yet, as we all know when the roads are turned over to Lake Hallie, the village needs to maintain them. The request for an additional $465,000 is reasonable.
The Village Board has been completely transparent on these issues. One other fact with the Lake Hallie Municipal Building and Fire Station being paid off the tax levy should remain stable. Both referenda deserve your support.