8/22/2019 7:30:00 AM Reader shares thoughts on Oneida County AIS coordinator position
To the Editor:
Our family has owned lakefront property in Oneida County for nearly 65 years. It has been a summer home, a permanent residence, and now once again is a summer home. I am one of the 75 percent of non-resident lake property owners. As a group, lake property owners provide 73 percent of Oneida County's tax revenue (Dave Noel: "Economic Value of Lakes & Rivers in Oneida County, Wisconsin").
What follows is an excerpt of my letter to the Funding Opportunities Committee (FOC) regarding cuts being contemplated in order to pay county workers a competitive salary. While I have been the president of a lake association, and am treasurer for a lake district as well as a board of director for Wisconsin Lakes, I am writing as a property owner who depends on the county for services to combat aquatic invasive species and to improve lake habitat.
I find it incredible that in order to pay our employees a competitive wage, this committee would prefer to add to the region's unemployment, and attempt to do more with less. Someone's good fortune in receiving a raise in pay will come at the expense of their coworker's jobs. Talk about demoralizing.
But I'd like to specifically address my concerns regarding one position on the committee's list that is at risk for cuts. As one of the more lake-rich counties in the State of Wisconsin, Oneida County's AIS coordinator is vitally important. It escapes all reason that a lake-rich county would propose cutting a position that serves lakes. The county should consider that 73 percent of its tax revenue comes from lake properties. However, it's possible that since 75 percent of lakefront properties in Oneida County are owned by non-residents, maybe the committee was hoping this idea would go unnoticed.
I am personally aware of several situations where the AIS coordinator directly assisted area lakes, and provided them with information on resources available for combating AIS. The programs initiated by the AIS coordinator over the past few years have helped raise awareness across the county, as well as helped contain the spread of AIS.
My contacts around the state are dumbstruck at the idea that Oneida County would consider cutting this position. Aquatic Invasive Species never retreat; they only advance. Oneida County should not be retreating. Your dependence on lakes for revenue and tourism should make it clear that an AIS coordinator is necessary. Do not cut this important position within the Land and Water Conservation Department.
From my understanding, the FOC rejected considering a referendum to raise the mil rate above the state imposed cap, in order to properly pay its employees competitive wages. If I were a voter and not merely a taxpayer in the county, I would vote in favor of that referendum. By my calculations, this increase might raise my property taxes by about $55. That's hardly worth quibbling about. But the fact that you believe you know how the voters will respond without asking them directly is presumptuous of your committee.
I also understand that the FOC rejected taking a loan for capital improvements that would allow the county to shift more of the tax revenue to salaries, while funding capital improvements with loans. While you may believe this act amounts to taking a loan to pay for salaries, it is in fact a method commonly employed to shift funding between expenses and overhead. Certainly asking the voters for guidance would be prudent. All options should be on the table.
I realize that everybody has their favorite program. They wish to keep everything they have available to them as a county service. But cutting the AIS coordinator position is a short term fix that comes at the expense of the long term health of our areas lakes, which in turn jeopardizes the county's tax base (lake property values). You are attempting to do the right thing in paying your employees a competitive salary by doing the wrong thing in cutting vital positions and services. I strongly object to this approach and ask that the committee reconsider.
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