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It’s that time of the year again. Next Tuesday, Nov. 21, our local Wausau politicians and the Finance Department will hammer out our budget. Tax consumers and “activists,” it’s time to make your demands. You poor tax payers — hold on to your wallets!
Let’s look at the debt first, now pushing over $250 million. OUCH! A city of Wausau’s size with a budget (spending) of just over $40 million, should not force its taxpayers to shoulder a burden this large. More troubling, is that about $10 million of the $40 million that the city spends, or almost 25%, must be allocated simply to pay this debt and interest alone. Sadly, this is money that could go towards traditional basic city services or to repair our ancient and crumbling infrastructure, but doesn’t.
Let’s take out some “zeros” to demonstrate this point. Imagine a person with a $40, 000 job, paying $10,000 in credit card bills and interest, and then buying a “quarter million dollar” house. Not very prudent financially, right? But at least the person has a house. What does the city own? What’s is the asset backing this $250 million debt? When Wausau goes broke, do our politicians think we can sell our water treatment plant to Stevens Point?
Let’s look at property taxes second, the source of almost all of Wausau’s problems. Ask yourselves, why do people that work in the Wausau area (including many of its employees) live in Weston, Rib Mountain or elsewhere? Why are many of the beautiful old Victorian houses by city hall (once owned by middle class people) now converted to multi-unit, subsidized housing? Why do we need TIFs (Tax Increment Financing) or other tax gimmicks to lure new development? Lastly, why is it so difficult to find low priced or affordable housing in Wausau? Why are rents so high?
For people who find work in our area and need to buy a home, property taxes are their biggest concern. Unfortunately, the community surrounding Wausau offers a better choice. For those in the upper middle class, those that can afford a $300,000- or $500,000-dollar house, possibly one of Wausau’s beautiful Victorians, a $13,000 tax bill (let alone the accompanying water bill) is a deal killer. It’s easier to build outside the city limits. When a municipality’s tax rates are near tops in the state, as are Wausau’s, prospective businesses and developers demand TIF’s and other “special” breaks to break ground. And finally, when it comes to lower rents and affordable housing, one would think that the “activist” and “experts,” who claim to represent the poor, would better understand that high property taxes are a landlord’s biggest cost. Guess who pays them?
If Wausau politicians really believe in economic growth and future development, if they truly desire a “community for all,” — skip the feel-good resolutions, curb the debt by avoiding grandiose programs to eradicate exaggerated pollutants, — and lower our property taxes.
Orlando Alfonso, Wausau