Would changing La Crosse's residency requirement help or hurt the city?

Published On: Feb 22 2013 06:17:38 PM CST   Updated On: Feb 22 2013 07:02:14 PM CST
LA CROSSE, Wis. -

In his latest budget proposal, Gov. Scott Walker said he wants to do away with state residency requirements for local government, school districts and counties.

La Crosse is one of more than 100 municipalities across the state that requires city employees to live within city limits.

Walker said he wants to make the change because he believes employees should have a right to choose where they live.

However, some city leaders in La Crosse don't see it that way.

“It's really important to the city to have the employees live in the city,” said Audrey Kader, La Crosse City Council president.

Kader said the city's residency requirement just makes sense.

“If you're earning your paycheck from the city, it sure helps then to have them live in the city and return some of that to the tax base,” said Kader.

In La Crosse, department heads are required to live within the city limits as long as they are employed. For new employees, the residency requirement is only for the first three years.

While it's provided some challenges to hiring new staff, La Crosse Human Resources Director Wendy Oestrich said for some employees, the residency requirement isn't a big deal.

“We have had individuals withdrew from consideration at various stages of the recruitment due to the residency, we've had individuals offered employment who have withdrawn because of the residency,” said Oestrich. “On the flip side, we've had people move into the corporate city limits also with the residency requirement.”

Oestrich also said removing residency requirements could mean more competition for city jobs.

“If it passes, sure, we'll have a bigger pool of candidates to draw from,” said Oestrich. “If there's no residency requirement, we'll get many more applications I'm sure, because they won't have to relocate.”

But Kader says the governor's proposal is crossing the line.

“I think he should mind his own business,” said Kader. “It is up to us to deal with our employees. This is really stepping over the mark in relation to local municipality authority.”

Oestrich also said after the three-year residency requirement, while some choose to move outside city limits, a good number of employees choose to stay.

In 2007, La Crosse County eliminated its residency requirements for most employees. There are some exceptions for certain positions.