Tax increase gets Walworth County residents' attention

(Published October. 30, 2006, 11:38 a.m.)

By Mike Heine/The Week

A proposed 9.55 percent increase in the Walworth County levy brought a crowd to the public budget hearing Thursday.

Residents filled the county board room plus an overflow room.

More than 30 spoke. Most were against increasing the levy from $49.2 million this year to $53.9 million next year. Some stressed that the budget is high because the county offers unique services offered in few other counties, most notably a school for children with disabilities.

Here's what residents had to say:

Levy hike

-- "I'm here to say, 'I told you so.' I was not a proponent of TABOR or the Taxpayers' Bill of Rights. I felt we were better off with our own self-imposed limits. You're about to undo six years of controlled spending."-Former county supervisor Betty Felten, Delavan.

-- "It angers me that you feel that every time money needs to be spent, we are the ones that pay for that. It's easy to spend somebody else's money. I would love to be able to spend somebody else's money with no consciousness, no feeling."-Gail Taylor, Elkhorn.

-- "You need to pare down that increase. There is no other way we can shoulder that burden."-Emily Taylor, Elkhorn.

-- "I can cut stuff out of (the budget) left and right, and people probably wouldn't even notice the difference."-George Howland, Sugar Creek.

-- "Quit going back to the cookie jar. We're getting tired of it."-David Dessant, East Troy.

-- "When I found out what increases to wages and benefits county employees are getting, it fried my eggs."-David DeHaan, Sugar Creek.

-- "A 9.55 percent tax levy increase is not responsible. Nursing home development should be left in the private sector. You need to stop planning to spend money that we don't have."-Jim Thometz, Lake Geneva.

-- "Everyone cannot have an increase. Some projects must be deferred. The current board is saying, 'Yes,' to everyone. That's irresponsible."-Patricia Simons, Lyons.

-- "It's just insane to me."-Pete Stefan, Lake Geneva.

-- "Ten percent is absolutely ludicrous."-Ron Fero, town of Whitewater chairman.

-- "I have heard the phrase, 'There's no free lunch.' My response is, 'I don't want a free lunch, and I don't want Walworth County in the business of making those lunches in the first place.'"-Michael Quernemoen, Spring Prairie.

-- "If there ever was a poster child for the TABOR amendment, this is the budget. This is insane."-Bob Berend, Lyons.

-- "If I have to get out there and run against somebody, I'm going to do it. I can make as stupid decisions as you guys do."-Joyce Bezier, Elkhorn.

-- "This is a pork-belt budget. You need to keep important projects. But you need to make deep cuts in what remains. If you don't want to make those kinds of decisions, you should resign tonight and make room for those who are willing to."-Jim Simons, Spring Prairie town chairman, Spring Prairie.

-- "I'm trying to push you guys out of office because you can no longer be counted on to maintain the hen house."-Bret Strong, Walworth County Citizens for Responsible Government chairman, East Troy.

Lakeland School

-- "Yes, Lakeland School is a taxpayer burden whether it's on county taxpayers or in the individual school district (taxes). This is what the budget is involving."-Barb McComb, Lakeland School aide, Whitewater.

-- "If there is a fire in that (old) school, the $22 million you're contemplating spending on a new school will seem cheap."-Frank Taylor, Whitewater.

-- "If you need to build a school, why did you build a nursing home first? Why not replace the school first? You're going right back to the ways that you had been spending money that you don't have."-Mike Waedkin, East Troy.

-- "Give these children the very best chance that they have to live their lives productively and with dignity. The only way to do that is to pay the price."-Paul Kremer, Elkhorn.

-- "Building Lakeland School is critical and has to begin immediately. We all have a moral obligation to provide for the children in greatest need."-Dorothy Kaufmann, retired Sharon School District administrator, Delavan.

-- "It's our responsibility to educate kids in our community in the least-restrictive environment. We taxpayers have been getting a bargain on that. The consolidation of Lakeland School brings costs down."-Kevin Bong, East Troy.

-- "Students can feel accepted by their peers. They are accepted for who they are."-Dr. Ann Callison, Williams Bay.

What's next

The Walworth County Board has until votes on the final county budget at the November county board meeting. The meeting is open to the public.

When: 6 p.m., Monday, Nov. 13.

Where: Walworth County Government Center, 100 W. Walworth Ave., Elkhorn.

The proposed Walworth County budget

Total budget

2007: $148 million

2006: $138 million

Percent increase: 7.05%

Tax levy

2007: $53.9 million

2006: $49.2 million

Percent increase: 9.55%

Tax rate

(Per $1,000 of assessed valuation)

2007: $4.24

2006: $4.40

Percent decrease: 3.72%

Note: Percent changes calculated on whole numbers.





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