Letter to the Editor: A push for partnership between city and county | By Rich Kasten

Sept. 28, 2017 – West Bend, WI – Partnership  (n.) – A relationship in which two or more people or organizations work together –Collins English Dictionary

On September 11th, the West Bend Common Council unanimously passed a resolution that respectfully asked Washington County to annually distribute 25 percent of the county sales tax to the local municipalities. These distributions would be used for infrastructure and road improvements. In an effort to work in a partnership that the Washington County Administrator and Executive Board continue to strive for, this is a reasonable as well as financially responsible way for the County and municipalities to share and improve infrastructure and quality of life for all County residents.

As many residents remember, the sales tax was created in 1999 with the narrow purpose of encouraging economic development through the addition of Cabela’s within the county. To date, the Cabela’s development incentive has been paid off and the sales tax has been repurposed for funding capital improvement projects and reducing debt at the County. While many have bristled that the sales tax is still in place, no argument can be made that it was not put to good use for much of the recent past.

 

The recent economic upturn as well as the development done in the municipalities has now led to a sales tax “surplus” – more revenue than was budgeted for.  At this same time, the municipalities, where the revenue is generated, continue to struggle with road and infrastructure needs. West Bend alone has three roads (18th Avenue, 7th Avenue and Main Street) that have multi-million dollar repairs necessary.

 

The County has indicated in many outlets that they will not even consider this request – that it is not worthy of a discussion. I completely disagree with the stance of the County. Josh Schoemann continues to talk about partnership and sharing services. These are good talking points but do little to solve the problems facing the municipalities. West Bend and Kewaskum currently share some services but any meaningful savings to municipalities would require substantial sharing of services that citizens have been vocal about maintaining local control.

If there is an issue they need resolved, citizens want to talk to 8 Alderman vs. 26 Supervisors.

The outpouring of support for local control during the Police dispatch discussions with the County show that there is only small support for that model. I ask what services is the County offering up to share with the municipalities that will significantly reduce their dependence on the sales tax? What benefit is there to standing by, watching the municipalities continue to increase borrowing for roads?

 

In closing, yes, I agree we need to work on partnership. Partnership, however, is premised on both sides listening and working towards solutions that are mutually beneficial. Distributing a small portion of the sales tax that is generated within the municipalities while improving roads and infrastructure for all citizens is mutually beneficial to both sides.  I suggest contacting your County Supervisor and let them know this idea is worthy of discussion

 

Rich Kasten

District 5 Alderman – City of West Bend

 

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