Open Letter to the Community (August 2012)
Posted by Daniel Guild ♦ Fri Aug 24 2012
Greetings again! It amazes me how fast this summer has flown by. As they say, time flies when you are having fun, and I have had a very enjoyable time these past several weeks meeting with and becoming more acquainted with my new job and my new home here in the Village of Weston.
The last time I posted on this blog, the Village of Weston was reacting to the referendum on public transportation and the new direct legislation which requires us to resume bus service starting in 2013.
We have spent this season reflecting on the outcome of this bus referendum, what it means, and what is says about our Village. The fiscal challenges are no less than we had previously feared. The Village is looking at a $625,000 budget deficit for 2013, while Village debt now consumes 1/3 of all tax monies collected. Under the state's tax levy limit law, the Village can only raise, without referendum, an additional maximum of $20,000 for next year's operations, leaving us far short. We could look at using the debt exception to the levy limit rule, but the Trustees have chosen to reserve that tool for capital equipment purchases. The State of Wisconsin continues to make historic and drastic cuts to state shared revenue, which traditionally had been our second largest revenue stream after property tax collection. And the materials that the Village consumes to enable us to provide services (gas, energy, etc.) are all increasing far above the rate of inflation.
Specifically related to busing, after some research, we feel that resuming the public transportation contract for service with the City of Wausau is likely the best course of action to meet the criteria in the NAOMI legislation. We have received two proposals from their office. One proposal shows a route from the Wausau Transit Center exclusively paid for by the Village of Weston. The second explores routes involving partnerships with Schofield and Rothschild. Current estimates indicate that busing service could cost the Village up to $120,000 in 2013, representing almost 20% of the budget deficit.
Our financial future, both next year and beyond, has significant challenges. The elected Board of Trustees and other dedicated citizens that serve on our various Committees; knew about these impending financial shortfalls. My guess is that this was the primary motivation for cutting the bus service last year. After reflecting on the outcome of the bus referendum (60% for and 40% against), perhaps making tough decisions about service delivery is not what this community wants? Maybe Weston citizens value their current portfolio of local government services and maybe they want to see them all maintained? Maybe there is tolerance for increasing revenues, i.e. raising taxes to maintain those services?
I cannot answer these questions, and nor should any one single leader or official. Therefore, in the spirit of democratic participation, we are going to put the question to you – our voters and taxpayers. This November, the Village will be posing two referendum questions to the community. The first question will ask: Will you allow us to raise the Village tax rate $0.14/$1000, which equates to an increase of $14 for a home assessed at $100,000, for the exclusive purpose of paying for public transportation.
The second question will ask: Will you allow us to raise the Village tax rate an additional $0.46/$1000, which equates to an increase of $46 for a home assessed at $100,000 to be used towards maintaining operations? The majority of this cost will cover expenses related to public safety and law enforcement and will be used strictly for maintaining current service and staffing levels. No funding is included to increase staffing.
Since I have highlighted law enforcement and public safety, I want to take a few sentences to address the fantastic value Weston already receives from the Everest Metro Police Department, under Chief Sparks' leadership. The national average for full-time sworn law enforcement officers per 1,000/people is 2.4, and the Wisconsin average is 2.3. The national full-time average for law enforcement employees (both sworn and civilian) per 1,000/people is 3.5, and the Wisconsin average is 3.4. The ratio of EMPD full-time sworn law enforcement officers per 1,000/people is 1.38 and the ratio of EMPD law enforcement employees (both sworn and civilian) per 1,000/people is 1.55. Last year, the joint finance committee chose to apply money from the EMPD rainy day fund (i.e., fund balance) to balance the 2012 budget. That practice will be unsustainable in 2013 and going forward into the future.
You should know that Village representatives are well aware how difficult these questions are during these extraordinary economic troubles. We have already made good attempts to address these impending shortfalls. In the past nine months, we have lost two full time positions to retirement, which will not be filled. During this fall season, the Village's leaders will continue to work hard to engage our voters, solicit ideas and suggestions, and prepare to make tough decisions about our services based upon the outcome of the referendum questions.
People have asked me already, if this referendum does not pass, which services will be cut? That is hard to answer right now, because we have not begun to utilize an inclusive process which reaches out to voters, taxpayers, local officials, and professional staff. What I can say is that we will focus first on maintaining services which are 'consumed' by taxpayers the most equitably. Other services, which are consumed by smaller, select groups here in the community, will likely be among the first to be evaluated.
Either way, the most important element of this plan is that we want to engage your interaction and have your involvement. We want your participation both at the ballot box and during our budget deliberations about what our future service portfolio will look like. I am looking to organize a few listening sessions after Labor Day to facilitate conversation and community feedback. I am also eager to receive your input and suggestions through email at email@example.com or through Facebook at VoWadmin@facebook.com or via Twitter @danielguild. Meanwhile, all our department directors, Committee members, and Village Trustees are ready with open minds and ears to listen and receive your input and suggestions.
Thank you for your attention to this important issue. I look forward to discussing this more with you in the weeks ahead of the November election.
Contact Daniel Guild to make a comment
Comments re Weston Transit Referendum
Posted by Daniel Guild ♦ Thu Jun 7 2012
On Tuesday, Weston voters voiced their preference to see public transportation reinstated in the community. I know that the Village Board of Trustees is both welcoming and appreciative of your feedback on this important issue. Your local government has been and will continue to be open to hearing from NAOMI and members of the community on how we can, together, address the issue of transit services given the constraints of Weston's budget.
Naturally, many are wondering what the process to resolve this issue going forward will be? Foremost, the Village Board needs to meet and dialogue with each other regarding what this vote means for the community. We are still in the process of conferring with legal counsel on the status of the Village's appeal of the Marathon County Circuit court ruling. Important work between Village department Directors to explore possible service reductions in current areas will need to be explored further. Finally, we will need to deliberate on the possibility of increases to fees and charges to help offset any new expense. I am sure that all of this will be tied into our preparation and discussion on the Village's 2013 budget.
In the meantime, if you have thoughts, feedback, and ideas that you would like us to consider, as we investigate our choices going forward, please feel free to contact me at Village Hall during normal business hours or via email at your convenience.
Again, thank you all for your votes last Tuesday. We look forward to talking with you more about this issue.
Contact Daniel Guild to make a comment
Hello, and nice to meet you!
Posted by Daniel Guild ♦ Fri Jun 1 2012
Greetings fellow neighbors and citizens of the Village of Weston,
I am so excited to be corresponding with you as your new Village Administrator. I thought I would take advantage of this space and share with you all a little more information about myself.
I spent my childhood being raised up north in Ashland, on the shores of Chequamegon Bay, close to the Apostle Islands. After many cold, but lovely years up north, the entire family relocated down to the Green Bay metro area, where incidentally, I studied political science and religion at St. Norbert College. I spent several years over at Michigan State University working on graduate degrees in Public Policy Administration and Urban Planning/Economic Development.
Weston is the 6th local government agency that I have worked with, prior to which I was in Poynette, Wisconsin; Wrightstown, Wisconsin; Lansing, Michigan; East Lansing, Michigan, and De Pere, Wisconsin. I worked as the Village Administrator in the last two other communities.
I am very interested in getting to know the Weston community better and hearing from all of you about how we can work together to sustain and develop the Village as a leading place raise our families, do business, and enjoy our lives! Please never hesitate to contact me here at Weston Village Hall during normal business hours at 715-359-6114 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I am also happy to converse with residents and property owners through social media on either on Facebook at facebook.com/danielguild or via Twitter @danielguild.
Thank you very much for the warm welcome that I have received from so many of you. I look forward to knowing you all better and becoming a part of this community. Hope to hear from you soon.
Contact Daniel Guild to make a comment