Thursday, January 7, 2010

It Could Get Expensive To Live In Waukesha

Consider that the Waukesha School District stands to lose tens of millions of dollars in a failed investment scheme, which means one or more of these things will happen, all with costs to taxpayers:

A damaged credit rating.

Legal costs.

Unknown added expenses for the system because of a revenue shortfall.

Then consider that the water utility estimates the cost of its preferred Lake Michigan diversion plan at $164 million - - but there is years of planning, changes and possible litigation down the road, not to mention studies that could lead to a different water plan.

Add all that up for ratepayers and taxpayers, and there will be real costs to everyone living in Waukesha and using its water.


Jim Bouman said...

Funny you should mention that. This morning's Waukesha Freeman newspaper reported in a column on recent sales of houses in our city.

A place on Willard Ln, with an assessed value of $344,000 that languished on the market for a long time sold for $320,000.

Not far from there another tract mansion on Brendon Way that paid taxes last year on valuation of $466,500 sold for $330,000. (Possibly a typo, after all this was in the Freeman.)

And just two blocks from where I live a house on Bel Ayr Dr. assessed at $160,300 sold in a foreclosure action for $124,000.

The City of Waukesha Assessor's office has a simple "parcel inquiry" web page that allows one to take the pulse week by week of the housing market. I check a few of the reported sales from time to time just to get a feel for how it is going out there.

It is clear that Waukesha real estate is in a deep trough that's getting deeper. This will, of course, mean that we will no longer see huge increases in tax revenue funded by the increase in the community tax base added by newly built places.

Not only is development nearly dead, but recently built places are losing value. My tax bill on a modest place in a working class neighborhood that has been my home for 20 years, took a big leap upward this year--not because of very much increase in valuation, but because of a hike in the tax rate-per-thousand-of assessed value.

We--the residents who have paid the taxes to grow this city and school system for the past 35 years and more are getting hammered, even as our valuation diminishes.

Anonymous said...

For this we can thank city and district "leadership" in the form of Mayor Larry Nelson and Water Utility Commission President, Dan Warren, who also happens to be the current Waukesha School Board President and was Chair of the School Board Finance Committee during the time the disastrous investments were made. Nelson has made it his personal goal to obtain Lake Michigan water for the City of Waukesha, despite the many financial, environmental, and political obstacles, since before he was "elected" Mayor. And now he's proposed, and had approved by the City Council, a tidy raise in mayoral pay that he stands to collect if he can manage to relect himself this Spring. This is in addition to giving away thousands in city (taxpayer funded) TIF money for failed investments in the Clarke Hotel and the Frame Park baseball diamond. The Clarke's proposed business model was vigorously questioned at the time (should the city be spending big money to back private business?) and the Frame Park baseball plan was shoved down the throats of citizens who protested the use of a public park for private enterprise, in an area that is heavily used by the public for family activities and has very little parking.

Don't think this is some anti-government, partisan screed: Nelson is a Democrat; Warren is a Republican. Together, they've ruined Waukesha and stuck its current and future residents with untold millions in taxes.

Neither one of this Terrible Twosome has had the integrity to admit his mistakes, much less resign.

Ron said...

And yet with all you mention in your post, Waukesha will still be the cause of all of Milwaukee's problems from mass transit problems to high ozone readings because Waukesha residents are not paying enough taxes to solve Milwaukee's problems.

The Big Bopper said...

@ Ron:
No, you have it all wrong. Waukesha has the problem. Waukesha has radium in its water and is on a deadline to find a new source of water for the demand it is projecting to create by sprawling westward. That is Waukesha's problem. A problem created by Waukesha. Now, Waukesha wants Milwaukee to solve its problem AND wished to dictate all of the terms of a deal.

Anonymous said...

Milwaukee's problems are more severe than Waukesha's lack of water. Milwaukee will do anything to generate some more revenue at this point even if they are selling the water at a low price. Even if people think this water shortage will curb sprawl, and somehow lure capital back to the city, it will only shift it to areas where water is abundant.

Milwaukee is dying outside of the east side or third ward. Home values in the city are worth no where near the assessed value. The middle class residents continue to pass away or bail for more attractive areas, along with businesses, and lower income residents replace them. Poverty leads to crime, more police, and taxes rise even when properties lose value. Add that with the aging mass-produced 1950s homes throughout the city and you have a crisis.

The poor may outnumber the rich, but can you see the next generation of young middle class professionals considering Milwaukee as a place to raise a family? Poor schools, crime, high taxes, undesirable houses on small lots with low income rentals all around. The suburbs always win.

James Rowen said...

I also see that Waukesha is ending curbside recycling.



Sign of a mature and enlightened city/

Of course.

Unknown said...

I think anonymous has his facts confused. I live in Riverwest, and have had several houses built within blocks of my own over the past year. Some going for 200 a sq. ft., as well as two new restaurants open.
I think you may need to actually visit Milwaukee if you are going to absurdly proclaim it is dying.