High tax Waunakee
Village Board members, talking about new spending, like to tout Waunakee’s "low taxes," citing "mill rate" as proof. The mill rate, the total tax divided by property valuation, is relevant only until such time as the entire amount comes due, then it is irrelevant. Your bank statement does not denominate in "mill rate." It’s a ruse.
The proper analytic is taxes per capita which, when measured against peer communities, is quite high ($978.43). DeForest and McFarland are similarly sized peer Villages in Dane county and have lower tax per capita. In fact most of our municipal peers have lower taxes per capita. In expenditures, the village spends more per capita than just three peers, all of whom have a higher proportion of commercial and industrial tax-base, off-setting these expenses to the homeowner.
The Village of Waunakee has been fortunate to have ample growth in the past, but that growth has limits and real aggregate citizen income is not going to keep up with all of the legacy costs (and little favors) that are accumulating. One example is the road replacement program that does not appear to be on pace to keep our roads in good repair (Division, Dover, etc.). And when you add $15 million swimming pools or $2 million walk/bike paths, taxes have to go up. Math is hard.
When the school system imposes its constitutionally mandated tax levy, there simply is not much real aggregate citizen income growth left for the Village levy. The schools should be more realistic about the appetite for monster referenda, especially including beyond-mandate-amenities. The costliest of these amenities are infrastructure for sports programs (supposedly recovered in user fees), passed on to taxpayers. Most taxpayers (57%) do not have kids in school so that practice is patently unfair (and probably unconstitutional).
Increasingly, both the village and schools have been quick to borrow which will become unsustainable in a rising interest rate environment.
The unspoken but undeniable business model of the Village/Schools is to over-burden the elderly/empty-nesters, who have paid most of the taxes to this point to build the infrastructure, in favor of newer residents who have not. Young families, desperate to give their kids a leg up in education, will not notice or object to how they are being taxed at an unusually high rate per capita.
Fixed-income taxpayers may object and have a higher propensity to vote.
Supporting public safety
Several days ago, our nation remembered the 21st anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. As a community, state and country, we come together on such anniversaries to remember the sacrifice and bravery of those involved, including emergency medical responders, firefighters, law enforcement, as well as citizen bravery. It is my opinion that we need to support our heroes every day, not just on important anniversaries.
Supporting law enforcement and first responders is critical to the safety and prosperity of our communities. This includes funding increased training opportunities and personnel recruitment, amongst other policy changes.
Everyone reading this knows someone who has been effected by the opioid epidemic. In 2021, a settlement was reached in the National Prescription Opiate Litigation Case. While no amount of money can ever bring back the lives that were lost to overdose, the settlement of this case will allow our state and local governments to make significant investments in the fight against addiction. County resources have been at the forefront of this crisis, with county law enforcement, emergency responders and health and human services departments bearing the brunt of the costs. Senator Patrick Testin and I authored a bill that was signed into law as Act 57, guaranteeing 70 percent of any proceeds from an opiate settlement be sent to our partners in county government. I truly believe the settlement and the provisions of Act 57 will mark a turn of events in the fight against addiction and will expand treatment options statewide.
Another bill I authored, Act 181, passed unanimously. This legislation creates and maintains a statewide opioid and methamphetamine database system. This database will be a game changer in Wisconsin’s fight against substance abuse. By having better access to data, our law enforcement, first responders, healthcare professionals, and social services will be able to target their resources more effectively and efficiently.
It was an honor to work with many law enforcement officials and first responders to draft these important pieces of legislation, and I look forward to continue to support law enforcement next session.