Mike Moen, Producer
Thursday, June 22, 2023
For many years, Wisconsin towns and cities have been asked to do more with less but updates to the state’s shared-revenue plan means additional funding is on the way, as municipalities juggle multiple priorities.
This week, Gov. Tony Evers signed a bipartisan budget agreement including what his office said is a 20% increase in state financial support to cities of all sizes.
Randy Knaack, mayor of Menomonie, said the aid will help. While his city of 16,000 has been able to keep a balanced budget in recent years, he said the costs are piling up, including health care plans for city staff. And that is not all.
“Our streets and our roads really got beat up this last winter, so we’re trying to fill potholes and maintain our streets,” Knaack pointed out. “And then of course, having a university here, having to have extra fire protection, with the additional cost of ambulances and so forth.”
Knaack acknowledged each town is unique in its needs, noting there’s greater concern about how rural towns are faring, along with the dire fiscal situation in larger cities like Milwaukee. While the agreement is bipartisan, it has been criticized on both sides for adding provisions beyond the local government funding.
Knaack emphasized cities like Menomonie do not always have a stronger voice at the Capitol. He feels there is a need to recognize the detailed efforts to stay economically viable, which can help the rest of the state.
“What we have been fortunate to do is, we were able to capitalize on our industrial and tech parks, and other parts of the community,” Knaack recounted. “Where we were able to capitalize 100% of the taxation funds to build the infrastructure for more business coming in, which feeds into the system.”
Still, he said the rising costs cannot be ignored. Knaack added even though the extra aid will reduce some of the budget headaches, municipalities will likely have to keep balancing their needs to keep taxes from rising too much, while trying to provide services for residents.