The 2016 State of Wisconsin’s Cities and Villages

Source: Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance, 2016

From the press release:
Since the Great Recession, Wisconsin’s cities and villages have maintained critical services despite no significant increases in local or state revenue. But challenging times are just around the corner for local road systems, and Wisconsin’s smallest communities are still waiting for the economy to recover fully, according to a new report sponsored by the League of Wisconsin Municipalities.

The inaugural edition of “The State of Wisconsin’s Cities and Villages” is a combination of data analysis and local government survey information prepared for the League of Wisconsin Municipalities by the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance (WISTAX). ….

….The report’s key findings include:
• Wisconsin’s local governments have been great stewards of limited tax dollars. From 2011 to 2014, total revenues to cities and villages grew just 2.1%, which when adjusted for inflation represented a real decline in funding. Additionally, cities and villages absorbed a 12.8% cut in state support. This contrasts with state revenues, which grew by more than 8% during the same period.
• Cities and villages managed by focusing on public safety. Despite flat revenues, police and fire response times were unchanged. There were reductions in snow plowing response time; street maintenance was flat; and other non-life-safety city services were cut. Yet local leaders reported high levels of citizen satisfaction with municipal services.
• Maintenance of local roads remains a long-term challenge. While 68% of city and village streets ranked “good,” “very good,” or “excellent,” this percentage has been declining since 2009 while the percentage of “fair,” and “poor or worse,” has been increasing.
• Delaying street maintenance projects raises costs exponentially. While basic street resurfacing costs $606,000 per mile, the cost quadruples if the work is deferred and streets need to be reconstructed.
• Municipal borrowing is a growing concern. The report found that local debt service payments have skyrocketed. Municipal budgets now allocate $1 of every $5 to paying off loans for work done in the past. Debt service hovered around 15% between 1986 and 2000. Paying off old debts reduces money available to undertake current street projects and other municipal needs….