Saturday, December 3rd, 2016

Taxing the unrepresented

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The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorial board, in a rare bout of common sense, argues against overriding the Vrakas veto of taxing the non-library communities for capital expenditures.

On Tuesday, the County Board will decide whether to overturn County Executive Dan Vrakas’ veto of the new funding system, a measure the board approved last month, 23-8, one vote shy of the number needed for override, although four board members were absent.

An override appears likely. But if they want to be fair, supervisors should sustain the veto.

Supporters don’t want a tax increase just for the sake of getting their hands on more tax money. They want appropriate funding for library services being used by residents throughout the county. And they sincerely feel that residents from non-library communities, many of them towns, who pay for operational costs should also help pay for capital costs of libraries.

Supporters call the new system a tax shift because the expectation is that library communities will lower their own taxes so as not to increase the overall funding for libraries. But expectations aren’t reality, and temporary taxes and tax shifts are often just euphemisms for tax increases.

Vrakas argues that communities with libraries are already re-imbursed by the county for 116% of the operational costs incurred by use from residents of communities without libraries.

What the editorial does not say is that the non-library communities do not have a say in the capital expenditures at the elected official level, and that if a community decides to build the Taj Majal they do not have the right to expect the neighboring communities to pay for it.

If the cost of non-resident usage is seriously driving the library capital expenditures, then alternative revenue should be pursued through greater fees for non-residents. The other alternative would be to have the county take over the library system completely.

But this is a classic case of the city of Waukesha behaving like it’s big neighbor to the East in demanding other communities subsidize their wants. The city of Waukesha wouldn’t want Milwaukee doing it to them; Waukesha should not be trying to do it to their neighbors.

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