Referendums possibly on tap as officials in West Bend look to fund road repairs

Oct. 4, 2017 – West Bend, WI – The Long Range Transportation Committee (LRTC) meets at 5:30 p.m. tonight  and the main topic will be making a recommendation to the Common Council for possible advisory referendum questions regarding increased city street funding.

In 2015 the city put together the LRTC to specifically look at issues dealing with road maintenance and repair. Aldermen said roads were the No. 1 complaint of taxpayers.

In September 2015 the city posted a Transportation Survey

Dist. 5 alderman Rich Kasten, who heads up the Long Range Transportation Committee, said the survey was “not to advocate for any potential solution but garner true and valuable feedback on the appetite of the citizens when it comes to road maintenance.”

Survey results showed taxpayers wanted to city to stay the course on road maintenance with a 4 percent bump in spending each year. The second plan would be to carry out a referendum to raise taxes and the least favorite option was the wheel tax

City Administrator Jay Shambeau said the conversation on road repair started again a couple months ago and at the last meeting the LRTC looked at three options:

  1. Continue to spend 4 percent more per year on road maintenance
  2. Enact a wheel tax of $20 per registered passenger vehicle / car or light truck. That could generate about $600,000 annually to be spent on roads.
  3. Increase property taxes specifically for road projects.

The city has three road projects at the top of its list including Seventh Avenue, 18th Avenue from Vogt Drive to Paradise Drive and S. Main Street.

“The council is beginning to realize our current practice of $1 million plus 4 percent would take a long time to get these projects completed,” Shambeau said.

If the decision is made to step up spending on road maintenance, the council wants to ask constituents before doing it on its own.

Shambeau said the city has made efforts to enter into conversations with Washington County to request a portion of sales tax money to fund new roads  however that has not been successful.

“A referendum would allow the city to infuse a limited-term amount of money to fund those three roads and then our continued current plan of $1 million plus 4 percent, could allow the city continue to chip away at other roads people are concerned about,” Shambeau said.

During tonight’s meeting the LRTC will suggest an advisory referendum be placed on the ballot involving the three options. Each of the questions could go out as soon as the April election.

In the past members of the council have voiced opposition to initiating another tax because there is a common thought that once a new tax is in place, government becomes dependent on it and rarely is it removed.

Shambeau said “it would be up to the council but a short-term window on the tax” is what they’ve been discussing at this time.

Below are details on similar road maintenance funding options rolled out in 2015. Something similar is expected to be unveiled tonight.

Continue with the current plan:
For several years prior to and including the 2012 budget, $750,000.00 per year was designated to our annual pavement maintenance program (PMP). From 2012-2015, the annual PMP funding has been increased 19% to $924,768.00 per year in 2015 (without tax increase). Another 4% increase is proposed for the 2016 PMP budget bringing the 2016 PMP budget to $960,000.00 per year (without tax increase). The current plan would include raising the annual PMP budget at a rate greater than the rate of inflation from 2017 on.

Wheel tax or other fee restricted to roads.
A wheel tax could be assessed to each motor vehicle in West Bend and would be an addition to the vehicle registration fee charged by Wisconsin. This wheel tax would be restricted to transportation needs in West Bend and cannot be used to fund other items within the city. These funds would be added to the PMP funds already budgeted by the city. As an example, there are 31,000 vehicles registered and if a $20.00 wheel tax was assessed, it would generate roughly $600,000 in additional yearly PMP funds.

Referendum to increase taxes/borrowing.
In lieu of an additional fee, this solution would put forth a referendum to ask the citizens if they would support either a raise in taxes or a separate borrowing to help add additional funds to the PMP budget. A raise in taxes may not be restricted to transportation needs and would become part of the general fund. A separate borrowing could be restricted to road projects and would, in the end, be reflected as an additional expense to the city and would be reflected in the tax rate.

 

On a side note: The city of West Bend will be conducting a citywide revaluation on all properties, both residential and business, in 2018.

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