Scott Wedel: The people’s choice
November 17, 2012
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.