Clintonville residents may be faced with a big decision next time they hit the polls to vote. A petition to remove Clintonville’s city administrator position was submitted recently and was discussed by the council last night, and that petition’s central question could appear on the next ballot: should the city administrator position be eliminated?
When you look at the numbers, the answer is a resounding ‘no’. Need proof? Tax Increment Financing (TIF) is a great place to start.
The success of Clintonville’s TIF Districts has served as a model for other communities in Waupaca County. TIF is Wisconsin’s principal economic development financing tool for local governments.
The key component of the TIF program is referred to as the “but for” test. “But for” the use of Tax Increment Districts (TID), the proposed development would not occur as proposed, within the same time frame, and with the same level of value.
The “but for” test could also be carried one step further-“but for” a competent, motivated and hard-working city administrator, the TIF program would not be in place in Clintonville, and millions of dollars in improvements would never have been realized.
Since 1992, Clintonville’s TIDs have seen over $32 million in total increment value added, compared to the total base value amount of $3.1 million. The total equalized value for all of the TIDs is over $35 million, compared to total expenditures of $9.6 million.
That amounts to over $25.5 million of property and improvement value that probably never would have come to Clintonville without a city administrator in place to set up and coordinate TIF programs.
When you spread that amount out from 1992-present, it’s a total of $1.34 million per year! This means that through value-added TIF projects alone, the city administrator’s current wages ($75,876.82) plus benefits ($25,508.97) could be paid 13 times over in just one single year.
Those interested in removing the city administrator position say it’s too expensive and taxpayers can’t afford to support the position. The city administrator made a total of $101,385.79 in 2010.
The TIF example I used above shows us that through TIF projects alone, the city administrator’s work helped add about $1.34 million to the local economy in 2010. That’s a 1,328 percent return on investment! For every dollar the city spends to employ the city administrator, it gets over $13 back.
Clintonville’s Wayne Oesterreich, owner of Specialized Products, said the city administrator position is undervalued by many.
“Is the position worth it? You’d better believe it,” Oesterreich said. “Take a plane ride over the city. The growth since (City Administrator Lisa Kuss) has been here is obvious. That growth would never have happened without someone knowing how to handle things.”
Speaking of growth, Specialized Products is in the middle of yet another expansion-their third in four years.
“We purchased our original building from LaCrosse Footwear. That wouldn’t have happened without Lisa involved. The same is true of all of our expansions; Lisa is somewhat behind each one, especially at the start. Currently, we have over 100 employees-most of them live here in Clintonville-and without Lisa’s help, we would probably only have about 25.”
Oesterreich also pointed out that the city is comparable to a large corporation in many ways-especially considering its $18 million annual budget and population number.
“She’s running a corporation of over 4,000 people,” commented Oesterreich. “How much do you think a CEO of a private company that size would get paid? To put it simple, I think (Lisa) is valuable-I don’t think she’s getting paid enough.”
Walker Forge is also in the midst of an expansion project-the largest expansion project in the history of the company.
“Our current expansion project couldn’t have even been considered if not for a previous expansion that allowed for Sgt. Warren Hansen Drive to become a reality,” said Plant Manager Rick Recktenwald. “The success of that road and how it enabled our business to expand could be almost exclusively attributed to Lisa Kuss. Without her due diligence, I don’t know if that road would have become a reality.”
As Walker Forge’s facilities grow, so does its workforce. Seeing jobs added to the economy is a direct result of the city administrator’s efforts.
“In just the north industrial park from Seagrave to Specialized Products, I will guess that between 1,500-2,000 people are employed,” commented Recktenwald. “When you look at it from that perspective, the city administrator is not only managing the infrastructure of the city and its 4,000+ residents, but she is also responsible for an augmented population of perhaps 1,300 additional people that don’t live in Clintonville but work here, eat here, and get paid here. She’s providing an environment that is conducive to the conducting of business.
“I can say beyond any reasonable doubt that the path Walker Forge is on now would not have been possible without a city administrator who was and is focused on helping us,” Recktenwald stated. “Lisa has been an instrumental part in the growth of this business.”
In the past, some have argued that what’s good for Clintonville businesses isn’t good for Clintonville residents. This argument doesn’t hold much water when you consider that local businesses not only provide jobs for many Clintonville residents, but also pay taxes to the city in larger proportions than a single taxpayer is ever likely to pay.
From a business and industry perspective, the evidence is overwhelming-a tremendous benefit is realized because Clintonville has a competent, hard working city administrator.