Alderman Taylor has been a Franklin resident since he purchased his home in 2006. He was elected to the Common Council in April of 2008 and has served as Common Council President since he was elected. Alderman Taylor was also elected to the La Crosse Common Council in 1997 at the age of 21. Steve is employed by COUNTRY Financial as a Financial Representative.
From the Desk of Alderman Steve F. Taylor
City of Franklin, Wisconsin
In politics having thick skin is a must. So, it doesn’t bother me that my usual critics have called me a villain, a shyster or sleazy. These are the same people who constantly criticize without offering any solutions. But, what bothers me is that these same people continually mislead the public in order to push their own political agenda or the agenda of others. There are a number of issues that need clarification when it comes to the 2012 budget and I will do my best laying out the facts.
The Mayor proposed a budget in September which lowered the tax levy but placed a separate fee for garbage pickup on your tax bill. The levy decreased by 2.4% which resulted in $101 savings on a home assessed at $235,000. However, a $104 dollar fee, also known as a tax, for garbage pickup would be added to your tax bill and it is also not tax deductible. There may be a time when the City of Franklin has no choice and has to separate the garbage service cost from the tax levy but now is not the time.
The Finance Committee’s proposed budget which the Mayor has vetoed had a levy increase of 2.3% but savings of $35 on a home assessed at $235,000. Unlike the “shell game” which the Mayor boasts as a levy decrease the approved budget is extremely transparent with actual savings.
The Mayor’s proposed budget uses $450,000 out of $1,000,043 of TIF revenues to make the Revolving Equipment, Street Improvement and Library Funds solvent.
The Revolving Equipment Fund is used to replace vehicles when their useful life has expired. These are ambulances, plow trucks and other fleet vehicles. For example, we will replace a plow truck when it is 19th or 20th year, if it is needed, compared to most communities who do this in its 15th year.
The Street Improvement Fund was established to maintain our roads. When I was elected in 2008 the amount needed to maintain our current roadways was approximately $1.4 million a year. The past four budgets allocated $950,000 in 2008, $800,000 in 2009, $500,000 in 2010 and $400,000 in 2011 which is well below what is needed to maintain the current infrastructure and as a result the annual cost had risen to $1.8 million. Every year I have received more and more complaints about our failing roads. Every year our roads have continued to deteriorate and we have not properly funded their maintenance in order to control spending.
As for the Library, by a 2/3 margin Franklin residents voted for the building of the library and they expect us to properly fund it. The Mayor recommended adding $50,000 to the Library fund due to potential cuts of reciprocal borrowing from the Milwaukee County Federated Library System.
In March, the Common Council’s intention was to return all if the TIF revenue. I should know because I brought in the resolution, similar to the one I proposed in October of 2010. I did this for one very simple reason, Transparency, and I accomplished what I set out to do.
If my resolution wasn't proposed and run up the flagpole the taxpayers would have had no idea of the benefits of the TIF district. The revenue would have been dispersed without any discussion. Now, the taxpayers are aware of the benefits that have resulted from the creation of TIF 2. The taxpayers are getting $600,000 in tax relief and being assured that the City’s infrastructure needs properly funded.
The Mayor’s recommendation of using some of the TIF revenue to shore up essential City services is the right call.
Let’s talk about the cuts to the Police and Fire Departments. They have a combined budget of $14.1 million or 61% of the entire City budget. As many of you are aware both unions were not included in the collective bargaining laws that were adopted in Madison. If both unions would have been included and treated like everyone else, the savings to the City taxpayers would be $350,000.
The Finance Committee actions were based on the belief that those two unions should help out with the City’s finances. As a result of the actions of the Common Council on November 15th the cuts to each department would be approximately $18,000. I don’t believe that $36,000 out of $14.1 million is considered a huge cut. Do you think a cut of .0026% is irresponsible and anti public safety?
Also, it is unfortunate that some City employees forget who they work for and who pay their salaries. There are many residents in Franklin who have taken pay cuts or have been laid off. Those who are lucky enough to have kept their jobs during the downturn have faced their own increases in their contributions to benefit costs without receiving pay raises. I don’t think it is too much to ask that the two biggest unions in the City remember this fact and do what it in the best interest of the people they work for.
This budget is not perfect. The previous three budgets I voted on were not perfect either. In budgeting the next twelve months we look at historical numbers and have to project future fluctuations in the economy along with the needs of our residents.
This is no different than my own yearly budget or each and every one of your household budgets. How much will gas cost at the pump? How much will it cost to heat and cool our homes? Is my 21 year old furnace going to last another year and when should I start saving for a new roof? These are similar to the questions families in Franklin ask themselves every year. The budget for Franklin is no different except for the fact that it is your money that runs the City. It is something that I am very aware of each time I make a decision with your hard earned money.
That is why I refuse to play political games like one of my colleagues (more to come on future blog). I won’t take a position merely for political popularity when I know it will cost you more money in the end after I am no longer serving you and able to be held accountable. I also believe that you can learn from the past and that many times history repeats itself. A previous Common Council pushed for 0% budgets at all cost and got their way. After a few years of this some realized the effects on City services and as a result proposed and adopted a double digit tax increase. The 1992 budget had a tax rate increase of 20.6% and levy increase of 54.5%. The residents revolted but to no avail.
I don't believe that future increases would be as painful but I am not willing to take the risk. I won’t allow Franklin to make the same mistake twice.