Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Waukesha's Budgetary Sudoku

All these years I thought the big puzzle in Waukesha was its street grid.


Waukesha says it's facing a $240 million budget "conundrum" - - a 
Churchillian budgetary riddle, mystery and enigma - - served with a Spring City chaser.


There's a word you don't see everyday in Public Financing 101. 

Though if you've got your Jane Austen reader handy, OK:

Jane AustenEmma, vol. 1, ch. 2: “Why should I understand that, or anything else?” asked the girl. “Don’t bother my head by asking conundrums." 1816.
But bother your head we will, conundrumnistas, with this question, among several:  

If an unfunded $240 million is a "conundrum," what do budgetary wordsmiths call the same community's separate, unfunded $250 million? 

A conundrum, plus-sized?  Conundrum, The Sequel? Or is it The Prequel? 

Or just a plain old FUBAR, fraught with many bad collateral mistakes to come?

Here a few supporting details, from the Freeman on June 14, to help you work your way through the maze:
WAUKESHA – Waukesha is facing what City Administrator Ed Henschel calls a $240 million long-term spending conundrum, and options from eliminating election primaries, eliminating tax support of the city cemetery and joining the county’s dispatch system are all on the table to help solve it. At Tuesday’s Common Council meeting, Henschel will present a report on his review of the city’s long-range financial needs. In a June 2 memo, Henschel said the city has about $240 million in capital spending needs, including major streets, minor streets, storm sewers and a new City Hall, and they all should be considered at the same time rather than piecemeal.  
The $240 million excludes $250 million in water/sewer upgrades, Henschel said.
Two more questions:

1.  Is this why Waukesha water officials are chasing after a $50 million federal earmark

Or is that all about a different conundrum - - the water diversion plan now approaching $200 million - - or is it part of the $250 million water/sewer upgrade responsibility?

2. Is canceling, for example - - primary elections - - anything more than a nickel-and-dime approach to fiscal credibility that also risks more damage to the area's troubled elections' history?

Conundrums abound.


Anonymous said...

This statement by the CA is as misleading as it gets.

The water / sewer upgrades are under a different budget process.

The Water Utility cannot - does not - have the ability to bond for the 200 million for a Lake Michigan diversion exception.

That's the why there's a need for the federal 50 mil. The Water Utility also plans to have the city "loan" them 40 mil + and repay with revenue from rate increases (fees not taxes, Ed). The city will need to bond that money to act as the bank.

No matter. Waukesha no longer can meet the timeline to have a Lake Michigan system operational by June 2018 to meet the date of compliance in the lawsuit with the DNR. They're already discussing legal strategy in closed session with their attorney.

Isn't it freak in' amazing that the Water Utility pisses away 3 mil on a goose chase, yet they need 240 mil for other capital projects?

This, and the Clarke Hotel scandal, go back to the Mayor Nelson days.

Thanks Dan Warren.

Anonymous said...

Maybe they were thinking of Max Weinberg, who was a Conan-drum.