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Wisconsin Cities, Towns See Dip In Revenue

Decrease Left Officials With Funding To Cover 95 Percent Of 2010 Services

Jim (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Cities and towns across Wisconsin saw less revenue in 2014 compared to 2010 when adjusting for inflation, and the dip has left officials with funding to cover 95 percent of the services municipalities provided in 2010.

A new survey, prepared for the Wisconsin League of Municipalities, finds municipalities coped with the lost revenue by cutting back on areas like road maintenance and snow removal.

Those cuts preserved response times for police and fire departments, Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance spokesman David Callender said.

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“Municipalities have set public safety as their top priority, and then they’ve had to take reductions in a number of other areas, and the long-term question is how sustainable those reduction are,” Callender said.

Deferring road maintenance can as much as quadruple costs for some projects, the report stated.

But the Wisconsin League of Municipalities also sees towns thriving.

More than half of municipal officials reported an increase in jobs in their communities in the last year. However, most of that growth happened in the state’s larger cities and villages.

Executive Director of the League of Wisconsin Municipalities Jerry Daschane said the state’s smallest cities are struggling with declining and aging populations. In almost two-thirds of towns with fewer than 15,000 residents, the average number of candidates in local elections was one or fewer.

“We are somewhat concerned about what’s going on in our smallest cities and villages—those cities and villages under 1,000 in population,” Daschane said. “About half of them have not recovered from the Great Recession.”

The survey found municipalities have saved by sharing healthcare costs with employees, but have seen the cost of paying down past debt go up.