Wednesday, April 17, 2024
HomeTown of Grand ChuteAn Open Letter to All Residents on the Use of Special Assessments

An Open Letter to All Residents on the Use of Special Assessments

It is time to just plain talk about why this subject is still being promoted by a few residents and one Town Board Supervisor, Brad Gehring, even after the Town received seven lawsuits and several Town meetings were held where this subject has been thoroughly discussed.

It seems clear, even in this last spring election, that the use of special assessments for road funding is problematic legally and demonstrably financially damaging to the affected residents. However, this does seem to beg a basic question: Why does the Town have to special assess for roads in the first place?

In several Town meetings last year, I made it clear that long-term assets like roads should be paid for as they are used over time. This is consistent with how long-term assets are expensed in every business, and it makes economic sense. The only reason that the Town has for using special assessments is that the prior Town Boards simply did not plan for future road needs. By using special assessments, the Town is transferring to future property owners the entire cost of the roads that have been used by previous residents who will not have paid for their use of the roads.

In Grand Chute, up until special assessments were used, all roads were financed through debt. According to the Town Finance Director, approximately 78% of the Town debt is for roads. Since there isn’t a statute yet to enable a transportation utility, there are only two options for long-term roads financing. The first option is how the Town has done it in the past, and that is by debt. The second option is to include it in the property tax. The difference between these two options is important to all residents.

When the Town uses debt to pay for roads it also must pay the interest on the debt. That increases the cost of the roads to the residents because, unlike a property taxes, the cost of the debt gets automatically into the property tax without any residents’ consent. If the cost of the roads is approved by the residents and is included in the property tax going forward, those funds can be collected in a road fund and invested, earning a return to help pay for the future road needs. In either case, the residents pay for the roads as they are used.

It has been asked of residents who have attended the Town meetings and are in favor of special assessments along with Supervisor Gehring, to make their case that using special assessments represents good public policy and in doing so also address the issues that have been raised instead of paying for roads over time.

To date, there has been no reply.

Just because a Town has the statutory authority to special assess does not mean that it is a good policy for its residents.

I hope that this letter has been useful in understanding this issue.

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1 COMMENT

  1. Is there a way to utilize both options in a fair manner? If a developer were to come in and require roads and other infrastructure to be built, they should have to bear some, if not all, of those costs. If a large business is the only beneficiary of a road project, they should have to bear some of that cost. You could also increase the property tax on all residents and businesses to compensate. What about a wheel tax, as well? You could even require more from the fleet vehicles and larger delivery trucks. Whatever path is chosen, apply it fairly and consistently on all projects.

    On a side note, I’m fed up with all the politics being played over this issue and sick of hearing all the whining and “he said she said” nonsense. I’m losing my trust in the integrity and character of all members of our town leadership, and I’m half tempted to vote all of you out, given a chance.

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