Wisconsin News

$50,000 roadblock stands in way of La Crosse city budget

LA CROSSE, Wis. - La Crosse is on the verge of passing a $71 million budget for 2013 but a $50,000 roadblock remains in the way.

The Common Council approved a budget on Tuesday with a $50,000 increase in spending, equal to a 1-cent increase in the mill rate. That's about $2 more in taxes on a $122,000 home.

Council members discussed paying for that $50,000 increase by dipping into the city's $19 million reserve fund. However, the measure fell 1 vote short of the needed super majority to pass.

Mayor Matt Harter believes passing a budget with another zero tax increase is an important gesture to La Crosse's residents.

"(Let's) continue to send that message to them that we're with you. We're doing what we can and we're making things work on a tight budget," said Harter.

"We'll still be able to provide all of the necessary services to the community," he added.


Harter tells News 8 that talks are already underway to bring the Common Council back together to take up the budget again. One council member was absent from Tuesday's meeting.

Harter says if they fail to pass a new, zero tax increase budget by Friday, he will veto the budget approved on Tuesday.

"Every year we continue to add and add to that reserve fund. I think we should put that money to work for the people (and) keep their taxes flat this year," said Harter.

"Yes, we have enough in there now but who knows. (What happens) when the city gets hit by a lawsuit and we lose for some reason," said Marilyn Wigdahl, one of the four council members who voted against using the city's reserve funds.

Wigdahl says it will hurt La Crosse's high bond rating. She also says the public just approved two multi-million dollar referendums, so residents can handle a small increase on their tax bills.

"There's going to be a point where you're not going to have your snow plowed when you get up in the morning to go to work. That time is going to come because the city can't keep sustaining that level of service without raising taxes when we keep getting depleted by revenue sharing," said Wigdahl.

While the negotiations continue, Harter says he will not sign the budget if it includes a tax increase.

"We're right there on the threshold of having a budget that is good for the whole community," he said.

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