January 20, 2022 – Village of Newburg, WI – The Village of Newburg has been slowly hashing over repairs to Main Street from Hwy Y to the bridge. The last renovation was in the 1970’s.
Village Officials are looking at a possible plan to not only get the needed roadwork done on Main Street in the next several years, but to also get the telephone poles out of the roadway, to make a better plan for parking, to put utilities underground, and to beautify Main Street for the growth of Newburg and the long-term success of Main Street businesses.
Below is an update from Newburg Village Administrator Deanna Alexander.
Thank you to everyone who responded to the fall survey in the last issue of the Bridges. We received about 50 responses. We learned that about 50% of residents do not want to see roadwork improvements done on Main Street at all, usually because they feel they shouldn’t have to pay for Main St. because they don’t live on it; or because they desire for taxes to not increase.
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The other 50% of residents felt Main St. work was warranted, but that any tax increase to pay for it should be minimal. Some residents responded that they are only willing to pay more in property taxes to help pay for Main Street if the village is operating at a surplus and all debts are satisfied. I wanted to provide some more information for residents on these ideas.
First, please know that this project is not simply about “beautifying” Main Street. Rather, the road has not been meaningfully repaired since the 1970’s and we have discovered the sewers beneath the road have begun collapsing. This makes it imperative that we take action to do something about this road, or it will only get worse.
The Village Board has taken the general position that it’s better to be proactive now than reactive because of a major emergency down the line. When I arrived in the village in 2019, I found that the village was setting a budget each year but not really following it well, and that no future planning for capital projects was being done.
The Village had a lot of debt and lots of little loans with lax record keeping. The Board of Trustees and village staff worked hard in the end of 2019 until present to improve record keeping, create budgets that we honor, and make long term plans regarding debt and major expenses.
In each year I have been able to bring each department in under budget and return money to the village’s coffers to save for future expenses that may come up. We created a contingency fund for the first time – which is like an emergency savings.
We have also learned that the way state funding and laws apply to the village punishes the village for paying for purchases “with cash” and incentivizes using debt proactively. For example, in some cases, if we were to try to simply save $100,000 per year for future expenses, the state will cut funding in other areas AND we are not allowed to tax the public in order to save up. Instead, we ARE allowed to tax the public if we are going to make $100,000 in payments on a loan, and in that case will SAVE the funding the state would otherwise take away.
It’s more complicated than I make it out to be here in this single page, but rest assured, there is a lot of forethought that goes into our spending, borrowing, and saving.
With that said, yes, the village has currently been operating at a surplus. However, we do not have all debts satisfied – we have outstanding bonds / loans stemming from about 10 years ago that we are still paying off and we make additional loan payments beyond what is required when we are able to.
We are hoping that as we pay those off over the next 3-5 years, we can roll the payments we were making into payments on new loans for current needs. We also planned proactively for 2022 to replace major aging vehicles and equipment this year so unexpected expenses don’t arise in the middle of the Main St. project.
This is surely not how one would run a private household but given the lay of the laws we have to navigate, this is unfortunately how municipal management for capital purchases works if a municipality doesn’t have the cash already stored away. That type of savings would have needed to begin back in the 1970’s when Main St. was last repaired – and that that time, the village wouldn’t have saved for it, because the village didn’t own it.
I also want to help put the nature of the financial layout into perspective – in 2021, the village brought in $600K in property taxes to pay all expenses… and the Main Street project alone is estimated to potentially cost somewhere around $5M before grants and other outside funding.
(Yes, we are working on securing grant funding for this project and have just applied for $1.5M from the state).
But as you can see, when some suggest a 1% property tax increase for one year to pay for Main Street, that would amount to $6,000 on a multi-million-dollar bill. We are fervently pursuing both state and federal grants of all varieties because without the grants, we know this project is impossible.
As we know this is a complex topic, and potentially controversial, we want to ensure villagers are well-informed and part of the process. Please mark your calendar for 6 p.m. on Monday, April 25, 2022 as we will be holding an in-person public discussion with our Engineers, Village Planner, and Village Officials that evening to present our options and answer questions.
Should you have other questions in the meantime, please reach out to us at Village Hall and maybe we can provide an answer in the next issue of The Bridges.