Wisconsin News

Study shows city government needs to downsize

Results say La Crosse should reduce council members and number of committees

Study shows city government needs to downside

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) - Big changes could be coming to La Crosse's city government. A three month city-wide assessment suggested some significant cuts.

The assessment compared La Crosse to six other Wisconsin cities with similar demographics. It found that La Crosse has too many city council members and committees, which is making the council less efficient. This is the start of a number of potentially difficult decisions.

"It's like herding 17 cats," Walter Jankowski, the assessor, said.

After seeing the results from the city-wide assessment, it was clear to La Crosse officials that changes need to be made.

"We were by far and away more council members, more committees, more departments than any of our peer cities," Tim Kabat, La Crosse mayor, said.

"We just stood out like a sore thumb," Dick Swantz, Common Council president, said.

The study shows having that excess is slowing the city down.

"To have it straight forward, fewer number of council members, then you're able to react more quickly and make decisions on a more timely basis," Kabat said. "We have too many committees and too much process. That is holding us back."

La Crosse has 17 council members; the report recommends cutting down to eight.

There are 60 committees, which is 22 more than any other city with similar demographics.

Council President Dick Swantz said it's been a long time since all the committees have been looked at.

"You know maybe we've just gotta take a good look and maybe there are some committees that we could do away with," Swantz said.

"I think this is the first step in creating what I call a 'lean structure' of figuring out how do to things better and faster, and more citizen-centric and how do we best serve the needs of the citizen?" Jankowski said.

The city council will decide whether to reduce the council to eight.

After the recent census La Crosse County changed its boundary lines. The Common Council could have done the same but voted not to because it would have meant the loss of two members.

During Jankowski's presentation, he mentioned the need for a city administrator. Compared to the other six cities in the assessment, La Crosse is the only city that doesn't have a person in that role.

La Crosse has entertained the idea of a city manager before. Voters significantly shot the position down in 2012. The city council president says adding a city administrator would give constant oversight to the city, especially during elections.

"Mayors, like council members, come and go. And the business of running this enterprise, which is not small, it's a multimillion dollar business, maybe ought to have better care and feeding in terms of how it's organized and how it's operated," Swantz said.

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