Scott Wedel: The people's choice

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The simple initiative petition would end the town of Oak Creek’s practice of using the electric, water, sewer and trash utilities as slush funds and make the Town Board run those enterprises like businesses.

Businesses cannot impose taxes. Yet the town-owned utility enterprises, for all practical purposes, can. Citizens must use the utilities. The town sets the rates and now plans to decide how much to transfer into the general fund each year.

This is not an emergency response to a financial crisis but a new plan to profit from the utilities at the expense of the public. This is the new plan on how to finance Town Hall year after year. No longer is there a need to get voter-approved taxes. The new plan is to raid the utilities and then raise utilities rates as needed.

Former Mayor J Elliott used his background in corporate accounting to identify labor and overhead costs that should be paid by the utilities. Thus, the utilities already do and will continue to reimburse the town for labor and overhead costs. Since then, the town has not transferred money from the utilities to supplement the general fund.

The big change for the 2013 budget is that now the town plans on transferring more from the utilities than the town collects in property and sales taxes combined. This is despite the lack of any significant changes in 2013’s projected revenues from 2012’s projected revenues.

The voters are welcome to pass whatever taxes they desire to pay for needed and popular government services. But the Town Board is not welcome to raid the utilities and later increase utility rates as needed to fund whatever government spending they desire.

Town government would like to make the issue about government services so they do not have to justify their spending. If the town government could justify all of its spending on popular programs, then the voters would be expected to approve taxes to pay for it.

Thus, the issue is whether government decides how much to take from its citizens, or do citizens decide how much to give to government.

I think the citizens should decide how much of their money goes to the town government.

Comments

John Weibel 1 year, 5 months ago

So isn't this a utility and as such shouldn't it need to go to the puc to obtain a rate/fee increase?

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max huppert 1 year, 5 months ago

We have a group just like sneaky Congress, Scott can you get the proposed budget so we can see what they want to spend all this money on. Then we can help them out, cause they sure dont know what to do!!

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 5 months ago

John, Municipal utilities are exempt from the PUC.

Max, The budget is online. The budget spreads the money around. A chunk for the police. A chunk for the parks. And so on. Nothing that is an obvious waste of money. But also a whole lot that they don't believe the public would agree to pay for.

And so a mentality by the Town Board that only the Town Board knows enough to do what is needed. And so the remarkable situation that the Town doesn't bother to mention their plan in either the Town newsletters or using the newspaper.

Remember this is also a Town Board that put a 1% sales tax hike on the ballot, but not one of them publicly supported or argued for the need to pass it. So apparently that reinforced the idea that the public cannot be trusted to support their spending plans and thus the importance of finding additional money without seeking public approvals.

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