cur-mud-geon: anyone who hates hypocrisy and pretense and has the temerity to say so; anyone with the habit of pointing out unpleasant facts in an engaging and humorous manner
Public Fire Protection Charges...
I received information from a Germantown resident who has asked that I not use the person's name. I will certainly honor that request. Both name and telephone number were provided. This is not a trustee, by the way.
The Public Fire Protection charge is where the cost of infrastructure/water system capacity to enable fire fighting to occur is assessed to the citizenry. It is also sometimes called a 'hydrant rental charge' according to my source.
This cost has been carried as part of the property tax in Germantown for many years. It is part of the Fire Department budget. The reason that it is on the property tax roles is so that people who are not on the municipal water system, and who, therefore, don't pay for the costs of that system are fairly charged for the fire protection they receive.
Germantown currently has a 2009 budget deficit of something in the range of $900,000. Trustees are wrestling with how and where to find the means to cover this shortfall. I am told that some discussion has been had that would see this hydrant rental charge removed from the fire department budget thus freeing up about $491,000 of expense to the General Fund and shifting it to the water utility alone.
This would make it easy to avoid a "tax increase" or cutbacks even while nearly another half-million dollars was made available to cover wants and needs.
My source has indicated that there are some 5,825 water utility customers each of whom would see an average annual increase of $84 in their water bills.
This would also mean that those citizens not using the water utility for water but still being afforded fire protection would, in essence, not be paying a fair share of fire protection costs. The fire department tankers are filled from hydrants in order that fires outside the water utility coverage area can still be fought. The supply capacity must still be made available, etc.
Citizens must speak their mind on this subject but that is difficult since virtually no one is aware that this approach is being considered as a solution to part of the shortfall.
This would obviously not be a real solution. Nothing would be cut from the budget to remove the shortfall. We'd simply be playing a bit of a 'shell game' by transferring money from one pocket to another and adversely impacting the residents who live within the water utility's system reach.
I don't believe this is a good public policy approach. The hydrant rental costs have been quite properly spread across all users and should continue to be managed in that manner in my opinion.
We have already been tapping surplus that has been accumulated in certain funds in order to have some money available for known future needs as well as emergency needs that might develop. That 'robbing Peter to pay Paul' approach has already caused some future issues that are not yet fully understood. Someday we'll be paying that bill and we'll be scratching to cover the needs.
Garbage Costs To Become Fees?
Another discussion topic is that of removing garbage pick-up costs from the village budget and making those costs into fees that would be assessed separately on the tax bill.
This is not necessarily a bad idea on the surface if everything is made known to the residents and if the change is done in a fair and equitable manner.
One such thought would be to move to a bi-weekly pick-up of recyclables such as was recently done in Menomonee Falls. I understand that some trustees are exploring that idea and gathering knowledge so that they will be able to propose a reasonable package if anything does come forward.