La Crosse County chair looks forward to major changes in 2020

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT)–There’s a lot coming up in 2020 for La Crosse County, including more road repairs and the potential for a more diverse county board.

With a Premier Resort Area Tax seemingly making no movement at the Capitol, the county board went back to the drawing board.

The Legislature wouldn’t let us move forward with what the voters asked for which was the PRAT, said Tara Johnson, chair for the La Crosse County Board.

Johnson said they decided to reroute by creating a multiyear plan to address road projects. In 2019, the county spent about $2 million on repairs.

In the 2020 budget, what was built-in was borrowing $5 million to take on the next tier of prioritized bridge and roads needs, Johnson said.

Next year’s budget also includes $50,000 for the Omni Center to replace an arena chiller and $150,000 for the La Crosse Center’s expansion and renovation project.

Both the La Crosse Center and the Onalaska Omni Center draw people from all over the region to play hockey, to home and garden shows to concerts and other events, Johnson said.

County board members will also get a raise come next year in an effort to diversify the board.

This is really, for me, one of the most exciting things for 2020, Johnson said.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly 10% of La Crosse County is black, Asian, Native American or Hispanic. But, the board is predominately white.

We are older than the population of La Crosse County, Johnson said.

And, there is also a higher proportion of homeowners on the board.

So lots of indicators that we don’t currently reflect more fully the population of this county, Johnson said.

By increasing the pay from $417 to $700 a month, it may open the doors for others to fill the job. Johnson said this also makes the pay comparable to what La Crosse’s city council members receive.

We were avoiding disparity between those two positions that do very similar work, Johnson said.

It comes at a critical time as all county supervisor positions will be up for election in April, which Johnson says could lead to some new faces on the board.

That, you know, creates hope and opportunity and all kinds of interesting dynamics when there are new supervisors who come into these positions, Johnson said.

What the potentially new and old members do in 2020 could shape the county for years to come. People still have time left to collect signatures and run for the positions.