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Leave it to the voters

Cardinal

Cyburbian
Messages
10,080
Points
34
The Wisconsin Supreme Court has ruled that the Village of Mt. Horeb must put a referendum on the ballot which, if passed, would require a referendum on any municipal expenditure of over $1 million. The village had argued that the ordinance conflicted with direct legislation law. Don't we have a thing called representative democracy? Don't we elect people to make informed decisions?

To me, there are some serious implications to a referendum requirement. As an economic developer, I often work with businesses having very short time frames. I can't wait six months to tell them whether we will be able to provide the infrastructure necessary for them to build in the community. On top of that, consider how often the general public is poorly informed of the circumstances behind a referendum.

One project I worked on called for about $2.2 million in expenditures for roads, water main, sanitary sewers and land for resale. Of that, about $750,000 was provided by CDBG and state grants. The remainder was funded through a tax increment district, with the revenue to retire the bonds guaranteed by the tax increment generated by the project. On top of that, we netted 100 acres of land for further development (with future proceeds from its sale). Does the general public understand that CDBG is not the same as general fund (property tax) revenue and cannot be spent for other purposes? Does the general public understand the way a TIF works? Does the general public understand the benefits of acquiring land on which to attract industry? I doubt that many do.

I suspect a referendum on this project would have failed, we would have $11 million less tax base, and 800 fewer jobs in the city. Of course, it never would have gone to a referendum, as we only had from July to September (when they broke ground) to put the deal together. The referendum would have been held in November.

So is the direct involvement of the citizenry in fiscal decision-making a good thing? I vote "no."
 

Chet

Cyburbian Emeritus
Messages
10,624
Points
34
Mike - The Mt Horeb case is a bit more complicated that it appears in your post. Essentially, statutes permit municipalities to make large borrowings unless a valid petition is received which is signed by XX% of the qualified electors that voted in the last gubernatorial election.

Statutes also allow municipalities to pass local ordinances that supercede the statutory process above.

My Horeb wanted to borrow a substantial amount of money for a controversial project. A petition drive was in full swing, and the Village Board raced through its own local ordinance to trump it.
The petition was submitted, and was found valid.

As I understand it, the case centered on timing of the ordiannce vs. timing of the petition, and which was the binding document.
 

cyowa

Member
Messages
4
Points
0
Michael Stumpf said:
Does the general public understand that CDBG is not the same as general fund (property tax) revenue and cannot be spent for other purposes? Does the general public understand the way a TIF works?
Aboslutely not! And in our case, neither does Council.
We happen to be having some serious budget issues like everyone else I assume, and not only does the general public not understand CDBG or TIF we have a brilliant Councilman with ideas for that money. Because there is a genuine possibility that we will have to cut Police and Fire due to the budget crisis he proposes using TIF money to pay for salaries at the library so that the Fire Dept can use the freed up Library budget. Although he's been told exactly how this money can and can't be used many times by my boss, he still thinks it's a good idea and went so far as to send out a press release to radio and print media with his "budget solution".

Is that insane or what? I love this town! (<--very sarcastic tone)
 

giff57

Corn Burning Fool
Staff member
Moderator
Messages
5,406
Points
32
Re: Re: Leave it to the voters

cyowa said:
Because there is a genuine possibility that we will have to cut Police and Fire due to the budget crisis he proposes using TIF money to pay for salaries at the library so that the Fire Dept can use the freed up Library budget. Although he's been told exactly how this money can and can't be used many times by my boss, he still thinks it's a good idea and went so far as to send out a press release to radio and print media with his "budget solution".

Is that insane or what? I love this town! (<--very sarcastic tone)
That's really funny. Especially since I have followed that situation somewhat. I am just up the road from you about 70 miles.
 

Mud Princess

Cyburbian
Messages
4,896
Points
27
Slightly off-topic

Michael Stumpf said:
Does the general public understand that CDBG is not the same as general fund (property tax) revenue and cannot be spent for other purposes?
The general public does not understand federal and state grants, period. If I only had a dollar for every letter to the newspaper where the writer complained about the city spending money to (a) put in bus shelters, (b) install brick sidewalks, or (c) decorate Main Street with new street trees and flowers -- "instead" of (a) putting more money into education, (b) helping the homeless, or (c) improving snow removal services....
 

Greenescapist

Cyburbian
Messages
1,169
Points
24
Oh my goodness more Wisconsinites are coming out of the woodwork. Soon this place will have to be renamed to something with a cheese or Badger theme, like Cheeseurbia (or Cheezurbia if you prefer the processed kind). :)
 
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