RACINE — Gov. Scott Walker offered no new funding for local governments in his budget released Wednesday, frustrating some in Racine, where the city administrator says flat state revenue means more service cuts over the next biennium.
After slicing shared revenue in his last budget, Walker’s proposed 2013-15 biennial budget neither cuts nor bolsters city and county coffers over the next two years, where state tax dollars help fund local services like police and fire protection, street maintenance and more.
“We’re happy that at least it’s staying flat,” said Racine Mayor John Dickert. “We’d like to see more, but we’re waiting to see where the rest of the city aides will be.”
Nonetheless, the flat funding is a blow when the city is already scrimping to save on services after taking a $1 million hit to shared revenue in the last budget, said City Administrator Tom Friedel.
With an anticipated state budget surplus, Friedel said Racine was hoping to see double last year’s funding in this year’s budget proposal.
Without more shared revenue, “Any increase that we incur in expenses — whether that be the Wisconsin Retirement System contributions going up, or cost of fuel or electricity increasing — any of those costs that we incur will have to be borne by the property taxpayers,” Friedel said.
Levy limitations imposed by the state mean Racine can’t push taxpayers’ portion any higher, Friedel said, and the city will likely have to resort to further service reductions as a result.
Meanwhile, County Executive Jim Ladwig took the shared revenue stasis in stride.
“Obviously we’d like to see an increase, but we understand budget times are tough all over the place,” Ladwig said, adding, “We have to make do with what we’re given.”
Ladwig, who attended the governor’s budget address in Madison Wednesday, said he saw little point in lobbying the state Legislature to increase the proposed shared revenue funding.
“I’m a realist,” Ladwig said. “Let’s be honest — I don’t know that the state Legislature has an appetite to increase our shared revenue.”
Instead, Ladwig said he hoped to discuss better allocating existing revenue, giving the county more resources only where they can be more effectively employed by the local government than the state.
Dickert said the League of Wisconsin Municipalities and the Urban Alliance of Cities still intend to make the shared revenue push on behalf of Racine and other member cities, making the case that local dollars foster local jobs which drive the state’s economy, according to Dickert.
Speaker of the Assembly Robin Vos, a Rochester Republican, said he’s willing to listen to arguments for more revenue “if they have corresponding saving.” But, he added, “I don’t have a whole lot of sympathy for the City of Racine because they have chosen not to take advantage of Act 10,” the collective bargaining law that saw many cities cutting costs by implementing new public union contracts.
Vos summed up, “In the world we are living in which families are learning to do more with the same or less, local cities and governments have to do the same.”