District 4 News
The solution to better roads in Green Bay is lined with potholes, taxes, assessments, speed bumps, bonding, and I believe Council fear of voter reaction in addressing this real problem we have. City roads total just over 400 miles. They are expected to last about 25 years before they need to be replaced. We currently replace about 2 percent of our roads each year, so we are replacing our roads about every 50 years. You can see why some of our roads are in such bad condition. Under those roads are sewer lines, storm sewer lines, water lines, and fiber optic cables, to name a few. The City currently assesses the roads on a rating scale of 0 to 10. When a road meets a set score, the road is scheduled for replacement. The planning that goes into replacing a road involves City engineers drawing up the plans, inspecting the infrastructure below the road to see if it needs repair or replacement while the road is being resurfaced, applying for any state or federal monies that can offset the costs, and seeking out best rates for the bonding. The roads are paid for by state and federal monies (if applicable), bonding (the City takes out a loan which the repaying of is part of the yearly budget including interest), and assessment to property owners based on the amount of street footage they have on the road. On average, the property assessments equal about one third of the total cost.
The complaints I get as an alderperson are: 1) the roads need to be fixed, 2) I do not want to pay the assessment, 3) don’t raise taxes or find the money in the budget. I think everyone agrees that the roads need to be replaced at a faster rate. I would like to see them replaced at rate of about 4 percent a year, so roughly doubling the amount of roads we currently do. It should be understood that if we did double the amount of roads we replace, we will need to hire about 2.5 more engineering staff to do the increased work to plan the road replacements. This would cost the City approximately an additional two hundred and fifty thousand dollars in salary and benefits. I can understand why people complain about assessments. For many it is a financial hardship that it is hard to plan for. I had one constituent call and tell me the assessment he received in the mail this week is about half of his monthly retirement income. The big question is how or where we find the money to get rid of assessments and increase the amount of roads we are replacing. I am not holding my breath waiting for the State or the federal government to help us out. After working on two City budgets, I can tell you we have a very lean budget and there is no fat to cut that could be used for this.
There are only three ways to get the money we need: 1) we make major cuts to personnel and programs. For example, if we cut the Community Police program, we would save about a million dollars. 2) Raise our tax levy, though we have to be careful not to go over the levy limit set by the state or we lose our state aid, and there would be no money for any other city programs. Even if we raise the levy the maximum amount, there are no guarantees that new alders or mayors will not take the increase and use it for something else. 3) We institute a new tax such as a wheel tax. The advantage of a wheel tax is that people with vehicles who use the roads pay the tax. The money generated by the tax by ordinance can be set in to a separate account and only used for road replacement. If enough money is generated, assessments can be done away with. The money can also be designated to hire the additional staff which keeps it off the general tax levy. If enough money is generated, we can also increase the number of roads replaced every year. The wheel tax, I feel, is a small amount every year instead of a large amount every 25 years for home owners to deal with. I will say, I have had constituents complain that a $15 to $25 dollar a year wheel tax is a financial hardship. I would ask if you want to pay a very little amount every year or pay upwards of thousands of dollars roughly every 25 years or more.
If you have any thoughts or ideas on this problem, I look forward to talking to you about it.
Alderman Bill Galvin
ALDERMAN DISTRICT FOUR
1244 Emilie St. 920-639-4640