TOWN OF WAUKESHA -
After a series of verbal jabs and scrutiny over a number of
items within the 2014 operations budget, a group of nearly 30
residents voted to increase the Town of Waukesha’s property tax
levy by three-tenths of a percent Tuesday.
Most of the Town
Board’s members assembled a draft version of the municipality’s
2014 budget after holding a series of workshops in recent
months. The documents were discussed during Tuesday’s public
fund the majority of the town’s budget, will increase by 0.30
percent, from $1,643,723 in 2013 to $1,648,687. The tax rate
will dip slightly, from $1.878 per $1,000 of assessed value in
2013, to $1.874 per $1,000 of assessed value in the year ahead.
levies were unsuccessfully presented at Tuesday’s meeting before
the adopted levy was approved on a 29-3 vote.
Hamm proposed the levy in 2014 remain flat - at $1,643,723 - but
his motion was defeated on a 23-5 vote.
Banske, meanwhile, presented the board and public with a
modified 2014 budget that called for a levy of $1,643,687 -
$5,000 less than the adopted amount. A formal vote was never
taken on Banske’s suggested levy.
When asked why
he presented a modified version of the budget right before
action was taken, Banske painted a picture of ongoing strife
within the Town Board.
‘Uncivilized, demoralizing and ridiculous’
While he did
not call out anyone specifically, Banske said names such as
“idiot” and “stupid” were used as the board deliberated on the
2014 budget. He also suggested a fistfight was about to break
out at one point.
“I found this
year’s process to be uncivilized, demoralizing and ridiculous,”
Town Chairman John Marek said: “Joe, you’re being ridiculous.
In a separate
motion, taken up only by the board, a narrow majority did
approve some of Banske’s suggestions in the approved budget.
One of the
most scrutinized aspects of the budget relates to legal fees.
While the town spent figures hovering around the $30,000 and
$40,000 range for attorney services a decade ago, the
expenditure has skyrocketed in recent years.
In 2012, the
town’s legal fees came to $254,692, and 2013 estimates hover
around $82,800. The draft budget had $60,000, but the adopted
version set the figure at $90,000.
Chairwoman Angie Van Scyoc defended the use of legal fees in
“We’ve had to
fight for our existence,” Van Scyoc said. “We spent that money
to protect ourselves.”
Supervisors Michael Laska and Larry Wolf agreed with Van Scyoc’s
assertion that more legal fees might be necessary in 2014. Two
contentious issues continue to percolate: the city of Waukesha’s
future with water delivery and Town of Brookfield’s ongoing
effort to incorporate.
“A big concern
of mine is protection of the town,” Laska said. “The money may
very well be needed. This doesn’t mean we have to spend it. But
we can call on it and carry on.”
Brian Fischer and Marek voted against the budget. Fischer deemed
the use of attorney fees in recent years “prohibitive.”