Friday, September 30th, 2016

Oh little town of Brookfield

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Will the town of Brookfield become a village? Will the villagers carry pitchforks and torches? Will the new shopping mall sell them?

Will the new community be named after me? Will I be able to sell t-shorts and coffee mugs?

For the MacIver Institute, I looked at why town of Brookfield residents are building a political wall around their community to defend themselves against invading hordes of tax collectors.

Many moons ago, the Kettl Commission identified one of the problems in Wisconsin is the number of small governmental bodies duplicating services. Too many governments, too many duplicate services, and, unmentioned in the report, too many redundant community names.

Underlying the problem, though, is a very real concern about the quality of life in those small communities, especially the tax rate. We often hear of people voting with their feet when it comes to taxes. In the town of Brookfield they’re voting with permanent borders.

The town of Brookfield has a tax rate of only $3.58 per $1,000 of assessed value. The city of Brookfield, the community most likely to annex much of the town in the near future, has a tax rate of $5.75 per $1,000 assessed value. The City of Waukesha, the other likely annexing community, has the worst property tax rate in the county at $8.94 per $1,000 of assessed value.

Beyond the tax rate, town of Brookfield government is relatively stable financially. According to Jay Walt, the citizen petitioner in this effort, the town has only increased taxes twice in the last eight years. The town is looking forward to paying off its debt in 2012, allowing the new village to invest in infrastructure improvements the money that would have been for debt service.

But what about all of these units of government? Wouldn’t the residents be better off without all of this redundancy?

“Bigger is not better,” Walt said. Walt said an advantage of living in a community like the town of Brookfield is it’s small nature. He can pick up the phone to talk to the town administrator or anyone else in government and know they’ll be available.

Walt also pointed out that the town of Brookfield already exists, so it’s not like the creation of the village will create a new government unit.

As far as services, Walt said the town of Brookfield has the police, fire and paramedic services at the same level of the city, but at a much lower cost. He also said the town has their own water utility, and the public works department “is second to none.”

With a change to a village, residents will no longer have the ability to vote on the town budget. However, there will still be that small town ability for citizens to be heard.

According to Walt, the decision to incorporate was the “best way to protect the town and its tax rate.”

“I really wanted our community to decide our own future.”

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