Final thoughts on Wausau's 2011 Budget

It was a small victory, but the increase in the City of Wausau tax bills will only be 8 cents per thousand and not 12.

I did listen to those 5 who supported the 4 cent “contingency” fund, I did listen and I do understand. The concept is sound… with department heads cutting “to the bone” as stated by Alderman Nagle, having $100,000 for unforeseen, non-budget expenses is something that merits considering.

Although it merited consideration; after listening, I still believe the council made the correct decision. The City already has about a half million dollars set aside for unforeseen emergencies.

Most of the conversation of the need for this additional fund related to public works type of emergencies. Had the finance committee said that the cuts for public works were too deep and public works needed $100,000 more in their budget, you probably wouldn’t have heard much from me. The same holds true if it was the police department, fire department, or even the inspections department. “Boots on the ground” was the phrase I ended my testimony with when the budget went to public hearing.

But these funds were not allocated, those supporting the 4 cent additional increase said these funds would be set aside, and only drawn upon in the case of an emergency.

If I thought that were true, I could have probably have been swayed. It is not that I think that anyone on the council was intentionally trying to mislead anyone. I think that each and every person supporting the “emergency fund” truly believed that is what it would be used for. However, it is not that I don’t believe any single person in elected office, I just have a healthy mistrust for government entities when there are little piles of money sitting around – a healthy mistrust based on years of experience.

What if, come October, November or December of 2011 there was no need to tap into that $100,000 set aside? Yes, the discussion is that it could then be applied toward the 2012 budget. But really? Would that actually happen? Or, would government find something to do with that money… something that wasn’t the intent of those funds. Often, memories are too short… and all it takes is 7 votes (or 6 with the mayor willing to break the tie) to allocate those funds to any other purpose.

I was surprised to be the only one to give public comment at the meeting. Does that mean that others in the City don’t care? Or, does that mean that others in the City feel that their voices aren’t heard and why bother make the effort? Only 4 testified at the budget hearing, and only me last night… Why?

The fact is that our voices are heard. Whether it be speaking at the podium on a Tuesday night; whether it be a phone call, letter or email to your elected representative; whether it be online comments made on a Daily Herald or Citizen Wausau article; whether it be a letter to the editor… our voices are heard.

But… more often than not what is heard is the silence.

Statements made last night by Alderman Gale are very worthy of note. He agreed these are tough economic times. He noted that such times require people to pull together. That everybody should do their part. If you see a piece of garbage at Marathon Park, instead of making a phone call, maybe you should pick it up and throw it away. If you see water backing up on the street because there is grass or branches or leaves clogging the storm inlet, instead of calling public works, move the stuff blocking the inlet. He wasn’t saying do the City’s work for the City, he was saying take some pride in your community and if you see something small, do something.

I say the same thing when it comes to our government. How many people complain about decisions made by our representatives in Madison, or Washington (or City Hall for that matter) – but NEVER actually contact those representatives to tell them what they think?

Did my testimony at the budget hearing change anything? No. Did my few minutes addressing the council last night change any minds influencing the final vote? I seriously doubt it. Did I feel better to make sure my voice was heard. Definitely YES!

One other quick reminder, because of the Thanksgiving holiday, I am not going to do a Dr. Rent radio show tomorrow evening.

Happy Thanksgiving!!

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About drrent

Wausau, Wisconsin Landlord, past president of the Wisconsin Apartment Association, Host of the Dr Rent Radio Show on WNRB-LP, 93.3 FM, Wausau, WI
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