February 2018 St. Croix County Board Report

 

There were several resolutions of note that passed at the February County Board meeting: Bonding for the new Highway Maintenance Facility, adding two new social workers, approving the TAP Grant Application, and the establishment of a new Transit Commission. 

Highway Maintenance Facility Bond

The bond for the Highway Maintenance Facility was set at $27,000,000.00. St. Croix County has the highest possible bond rating for a municipality our size, Aa1. That means we were able to get the lowest possible rate. There is a lot of criticism about the cost of this facility. Let's look at how this will affect property owners in St. Croix County. The annual payment on this bond will be $1,847,000.00. That still sounds like a lot, and it is, until you look at your share. Per $1000.00 valuation of your property you will be taxed $.20 (read: two dimes). So if your property is average in St. Croix County, at around $200,000.00 then your share will be around $3.90 per year. But wait! That $3.90 will probably go down because the value of your property will probably go up. So..... If you are like most folks $3.90 per year is a small price to pay for faster snow removal, safer work environment for County Employees, and safer roads.

Social Workers

The St. Croix County Board approved hiring two new Social Workers who will be involved with families affected by the meth and opioid crisis. The need is evident; the number of children in home placement went from 45 in September 2017 to 68 in December. The annual increase of kids in foster care was nearly 300% from 2016 to 2017. This is directly attributed to the increase of methamphetamine and opioids. The money for the positions had already been budgeted in Health and Human Services but the new position was required to be approved by the County Board. There will be no addition to the tax levy because of this change in staffing.

Approved TAP Grant Proposal

Every four years Wisconsin Department of Transportation makes a grant available for alternative transportation means like bike paths. This is called the Transportation Alternatives Program. The grant process is highly competitive. It is an 80/20 grant that means that St. Croix County would be responsible to match 20% of the dollars of the total project. The TAP grant proposal this year is to finish the off-road bicycle/pedestrian path that will connect the St. Croix River Loop Trailhead in Houlton to River Road in the Town of St. Joseph. In the Bike/Pedestrian plan, this route was one of the top 5 priorities and was selected for the TAP grant because it gives access by bicycle to Willow River State Park. This will be good for tourism, which is an engine of economic development. 

Establish a St. Croix County Transit Commission

The St. Croix County Board approved a resolution establishing a Transit Commission. There are significant changes in the legal response: St. Croix County Transit Commission will consist of nine (9) members: two (2) members shall be Transportation Committee members, one (1) member shall be from the County Board at large, and six (6) members shall be citizens. Appointments shall be made by the County Administrator pursuant to Wis. Stat. § 59.18(2)(c).

Two reasons the Commission is being formed are:

  1.  to gain access to Federal funding in order to stop using County funds to pay for studies, and
  2.  to serve the needs of citizens who do not have options.

If you get into a conversation with someone who opposed this idea, it is a handy thing to know that UBER DOES NOT CROSS THE ST CROIX. Even if it did, that is not a solution to a reliable public transit need. 

The REAL Cost of Foxconn Nears 4.5 Billion

The public cost for a planned Foxconn manufacturing project near Racine could near $4.5 billion - nearly 50 percent more than the $3 billion cost initially cited by the project's chief proponent at the state Capitol, Gov. Scott Walker.

The figures were compiled by the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau in a memo requested by Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz, D-Oshkosh. The individual cost figures are not new but had not previously been compiled in a single document.

They reflect costs to state government, mostly through tax credits, for Foxconn over a 15-year period. They also include costs to local governments near the proposed site of the Foxconn campus, in eastern Racine County. The breakdown of public costs from the project, according to the memo, is as follows:

  • State tax credits, $2.85 billion
  • Local government incentives, $764 million
  • U.S. Interstate 94 North-South project, $408 million
  • Utility costs, $140 million
  • State sales tax exemption, $139 million
  • Road improvements, $134 million
  • Worker training, $20 million
  • Local government grants, $15 million 

Hintz said the figures validate Democratic lawmakers' predictions that the cost of the project to the public would exceed the $3 billion amount originally cited by Walker and his state
 jobs agency, Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.

"That money is not going to be available for higher education, is not going to be available for K-12 education, is not going to be available for infrastructure," Hintz said.  

 
 
Sue D'Nimm