The reduction of dispatch personnel and hours at the Tomahawk Police Department is just the first crack in a levy that is on the verge of being breached.
Next, one can foresee the Tomahawk Public Works Department, over the next few years, completely eliminating part-time summer help, who, among other duties, look after city parks and keep grass cut on city property. Also in the not so far off future, the infrastructure of Tomahawk will begin showing signs of neglect due to the ongoing state mandated 2 percent levy cap. Capital projects will be further delayed, and road improvements will go by the wayside.
The state provided a 1.8 percent increase this past year over the cap it holds communities and counties to, but not itself. In Tomahawk, these additional funds were placed in a coffer that will cover the city’s match portion of funds needed to pay for the reconstruction of North Fourth Street in 2011. Since Department of Transportation (DOT) approval two years ago, the city has set aside over $50,000 to cover its $140,000 to $300,000 match portion of funds to pay for the $700,000 to $1.5 million project, depending on a 10- or 40-year lifespan. Because of this upcoming project, none of the additional $18,000 in revenue generated by the one-time levy increase went to city departments.
Like the Tomahawk Police Department and every one of us, the city has had to pay for the rising costs of fuel and insurance. The city has had to deny or reduce funding for projects that would no doubt benefit the community well into the future; projects such as providing total requested funding for the Tomahawk Senior Community Center to expand its parking lot to accommodate a growing population and requested funding to protect Lake Mohawksin and the tourism revenue it creates. To meet its portion of match funding for the state Main Street Program, the city was forced to offer a loan, which would be paid back through the program if the city were accepted as a Main Street community. The state mandates a levy cap yet requires that the city offer funding to take part in the state-run economic revitalization program.
A 2007 University of Wisconsin study of 200 communities statewide found 49 percent of local governments consider their current revenue base as inadequate and more than 64 percent felt their fiscal condition in five years would be inadequate, meaning communities across the state will be forced to cut dispatch, cut road construction and not cut the grass.
For communities that aren’t growing at an exponential rate and don’t want to go to referendum to exceed the 2 percent cap, the only option is to cut back, layoff and not fund programs.
Nobody wants to pay higher property taxes, but when the state mandates a 2 percent cap on local municipalities and doesn’t hold itself to similar restrictions, we all lose as taxpayers.