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COMMUNITY CONVERSATION

SUNDAY, MARCH 31, 2013

9A

WAUSAU CITY COUNCIL DISTRICT 11
Mark Lambert
Residence: Wausau Experience: Works as lab technician; retired military What can you add to the council? I bring leadership from my background and career. I’ve always had the Mark (desire) to be a politician, but I’m not go- Lambert ing to follow the status quo. I’m going to provide new leadership and new guiadance. I’m going to support policies that make Wausau a better community.”

Robert Mielke
Residence: Wausau Experience: Incumbent since 2012, works in pest control What can you add to the council? “I get along well with others, but I’m Robert not afraid to speak my mind. When people Mielke call me, the response they get is always honest, it’s quick, it’s professional. I’m an independent vote on the council. I surprise people; I don’t go with the flow.”
A city bus cruises down Thomas Street. DAILY HERALD MEDIA FILE PHOTO

KRONENWETTER VILLAGE PRESIDENT
Judi Akey
Residence: Kronenwetter Experience: Village president since 2009; worked for 30 years in information technology What do you bring to the job of village president? Judi Akey “As village president, I’ve tried to spearhead a number of endeavors. The most significant of these, I think is, is the strategic economic development plan we’ve put together so we can prepare ourselves and be ready when the economy turns around and when we have an opportunity to respond to businesses that might be interested in coming to the Kronenwetter area. We want to be good partners with our businesses, and we’re making a very concerted effort to do that.”

Thomas Street project fails tax test
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Geraldine Kowalski
Residence: Kronenwetter Experience: Village trustee since 2003; village treasurer for eight years; owns trucking company with her husband What would you bring to the job of village president? Geraldine “I have a very extensive background in Kowalski budgeting and accounting — the money end of things. With all the years of experience I’ve had in business, I look at profits and losses. If you don’t have the income, you can’t do the expenses. ... I’ve been working with the village for 10 years through all of the growth we’ve had.”

OTHER CONTESTED LOCAL RACES
Kronenwetter Village Board
Voters will choose three: » Jim Luedtke, challenger » Jason Holmes, challenger » Theresa O’Brien, incumbent » Christopher Eiden, challenger bent

Schofield City Council
» Kelly Bremer, Ward 1 challenger » Kevin Fabel, Ward 1 incumbent » Kregg Hoehn, Ward 4 incumbent » Kevin Mallum, Ward 4 challenger

s the Thomas Street reconstruction a public works project or economic development? That may seem like a distinction without a difference. However, the technical answer to that question may be the key to whether it is appropriate to use $13 million of tax increment financing or TIF district money for the project. Wisconsin passed its TIF law in 1975, just before Wausau began to debate the construction of the downtown mall. The Wausau Center mall is exactly the kind of central-city revitalization project that the law contemplated. New stores and malls were being built on the outskirts of towns because virgin construction sites were much cheaper than trying to reclaim a previously developed inner-city lot. The law gave cities a financial tool to ameliorate the costs of building on previously used sites. The city could borrow money, use it to contribute to the private developer’s costs and then share the costs of retiring the debt with the county, the school district and the technical college district. Once the bonds were re-

I

Keene Winters

Jim Rosenberg

tired, the TIF district could be closed and the improved property could be retired to the general tax rolls of all the taxing jurisdictions. And because the development would mean increased property tax value, all would benefit. The TIF laws were not meant to throw money at projects indiscriminately. To determine whether it was appropriate to use public money in support of a private development, the statutes laid out a “but for” test. To undertake tax incremental financing, you had to be able to say that but for the intervention of public dollars, the cost of reclaiming a site would be so high that development there would never be commercially viable. Granted, there are variations of how TIF laws are used. (See the Feb. 20 entry on Jim Rosenberg's blog, http:// jimrosenberg. wordpress.com/, for a broader discussion of various uses of TIF dollars.) But in this in-

stance, it's hard to see how the “but for” test can be applied to a road reconstruction project. The Thomas Street project has no specific private development tied to it. TIF money does not make the site any more “competitive” with other possible road sites. The city of Wausau cannot plead poverty and declare that TIF money is necessary to complete the project. It’s a government; it has the authority to tax and borrow money as needed. The moment a person tries to apply the “but for” test, it quickly becomes apparent how unwieldy a fit this project is for TIF money. Here is the real key: The Thomas Street project creates no new tax base. On the contrary, it paves over millions of dollars of taxpaying properties. It generates no revenue to repay the $13 million in bonds. So where does the money come from? Nominally, we skim revenue off of other TIF projects and other TIF districts. That means those districts that would otherwise be closed and returned to the general tax rolls are held open longer. The general fund has to make do without that tax base for years and years. So ultimately, or-

EDUCATION SESSION
The UW Extension-Marathon County will hold a public session on current law and best practices on the use of tax increment financing. The session, which is hosted by the Marathon County Education and Economic Development Committee, will be from noon to 4 p.m. April 23 at UW Extension, 212 River Drive, Wausau. For more information, contact Mary Kluz at 715261-1241 or by emailing mary.kluz@ces.uwex.edu. Register by emailing Nancy at UW-Extension at nancy.anderson@co.marathon.wi.us

dinary property taxpayers bear the full costs of non-revenuegenerating TIF projects. If we could make Thomas Street a toll road, this might work. Otherwise, TIF funding is not appropriate for a road construction project.
Keene Winters represents District 6 on Wausau City Council and is a member of the City Finance Committee. Jim Rosenberg is a former longtime City Council member representing District 1, a current county board supervisor and chairman of the County Education and Economic Development Committee.

Merrill City Council District 6
er » Mary Ball, challeng-

Weston Village Board
Voters will choose three: » Andrew Dallman, challenger » Mark Porlier, incumbent » Fred Schuster, incumbent village president » John Ziegler, incumbent

» Dave Sukow, incumbent

Mosinee School Board
» Kevin Hermening, challenger » Kelli Zebro, incum-

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