For the last 15 years, city hall has increased city spending by juggling and transferring funds so that residents pay for the increased spending as a subtle additional tax; Debt Service/Equipment Replacement/TIF#3 & TIF#4/Fire Hydrant rental tax.
This started in 2005, when the city took millions set aside for the repair and maintenance of the Riviera and the lakefront. They repealed the ordinance that reserved half (50%) of lakefront and parking revenues for the repair and maintenance of the Riviera, beach, and the parking system. When Riviera repairs were needed in 2012, and a new parking meter system was needed in the city, they used TIF #4 funds.
Today, the city is borrowing money and this will add it to the residents’ property tax. If the city had not repealed that ordinance there would be more than enough to have repaired the Riviera in 2012 and to repair it today, but instead, they need to borrow money and add it to the property taxes as a debt service fund. The city receives about $700,000 every year from the State of Wisconsin Transportation Fund. That money should be used to repair the roads and kept in separate accounts, but it is dumped into the general fund, and then the money is borrowed to repair the roads (sound familiar?).
The $250,000 fire hydrant rental fee was always paid by the fire department, but several years ago the quarter-million-dollar fee was moved to the residents’ water bills, and yet there was no corresponding reduction in city or fire department spending. This gives the city an extra $250,000 a year, but at the resident’s expense. Rather than setting money aside to buy capital equipment, the city has added a $600,000 capital equipment tax” to the residents’ property taxes. Until this year, the city has had a 5-million-dollar revolving debt.
To pay off the debt a one-million-dollar debt service tax was added to the residents’ property tax bill, then every 3rd or 4th year, the city refinances the loan and borrows an additional 3 to 4 million, thus maintaining a typical 5-million-dollar revolving debt, so resident and non-resident taxpayers have that extra million-dollar debt service tax every year. But this year they will be almost doubling the debt to about 9 million, and by 2022 the debt service tax will be adding $1.8 million dollars to the residents’ property taxes.
Spend a million here and a million there and soon it adds up to real money.