Tuesday, September 27th, 2016

It’s a consolidate

1

I never know which of the things I write will generate the most interesting buzz. So far, this piece I wrote for the MacIver Institute on a proposed constitutional amendment to make it easier for local government units to merge is getting the year off to a good start.

One proposal that has been languishing in the legislature is an amendment to the state constitution that would allow two merging communities to have separate tax rates for a period of twelve years. Instead of one community experiencing an immediate increase in taxes in a cooperative merger, this exception to the uniformity clause would allow for the two tax rates to gradually even out.

The proposed amendment passed the state assembly when that body was under Republican control, but Wisconsin Democratic legislators showed little interest in the amendment when they were in control of both chambers in the last legislative session. Now that Republicans are in charge, Pewaukee area state legislators State Senator Rich Zipperer and State Representative Paul Farrow are optimistic that the proposed constitutional amendment could pass.

Farrow said it was, “a worthwhile amendment to consider” while Zipperer said he couldn’t understand why the Democrats did not show an interest when they were in the majority.

Depending on how the proposed state amendment is written, the change in state law could have implications far beyond Pewaukee. The amendment could make it easier for school district mergers and municipal mergers involving towns. The gradual changing of the tax rates could even help merging communities avoid costly lawsuits.

As more communities are learning, consolidating services can be an effective way of lowering the overall cost of government. The city of Pewaukee recently learned this when they successfully eliminated their police department, opting instead to contract with the Waukesha County Sheriff’s department for police protection.

“More and more communities will realize that they need to consolidate,”Farrow said, especially if shared revenue is cut to local municipalities.

“This will be a starting point for that transition,”he said.

The comments at the MacIver Institute website are particularly thoughtful, as well as Steve Prestegard’s blog post over at the Marketplace of Ideas blog, linking it as he does to this Christian Schneider piece.

Dad29 asks the inconvenient question, when all the school board consolidation takes place, who will get the short straw to merge with MPS?

Hey, all the school districts are merged with MPS right now. It’s just that none of us get a say in how it is run.

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