Letter to the Editor: Vote No On Village Referendum

Remember that sense you had when you first moved into Egg Harbor? The village had energy, with a clear sense of commitment to public amenities in its downtown, its sidewalks and streetscape, recreation areas and neighborhoods. This exuberant zeitgeist is threatened by a referendum on the April 4 ballot.

The referendum calls for voter approval of all capital projects over $1.5 million. Sure, on its face that idea sounds innocuous enough. But I believe a yes vote creates dangerous pitfalls that could threaten our tourism economy and our property values. Please consider:

(1) Voter approval of civic projects is an emotional vote, and can be based on unfactual and misleading information. Sometimes this info is unfurled too late for rebuttal. This happened 10 years ago with our marina construction. More currently, it was stated that the new library/community center would raise property taxes 30 percent over 20 years — actually it’s 2.29 percent over 10 years. Imagine the effect this incorrect info could have on the eve of a future civic referendum.

(2) State and federal funding reimbursements are often contingent upon approved projects. Given that, even with pending matching grant money, a hypothetical $2 million project could be voted down with a mandatory referendum; the village could lose on both the project $1 million reimbursements.

(3) A mandatory spending cap didn’t work out so well for our schools. Wisconsin school districts had needed voter approval for sometimes for basics such as a new roof or heating system. As one Gibraltar staff once said at a school board meeting, as a result of the cap it’s the educational materials that get cut and suffer most.

(4) Inflation is in constant flux, and there’s no accommodating for that. What seemed expensive years ago could seem like a bargain today. The call for a $1.5 million spending cap seems arbitrary. I don’t know, if the limit were $3-5 million, maybe I wouldn’t be writing this. But the principals in this argument remain.

(5) Our village has a process for capital projects in which not only voting residents, but all property owners can have their say. That process can take years and involves back-and-forth public discussions. During this time a project’s parameters get defined and compromises are made. It can either die or move forward. Some people stated that village leaders don’t listen. In my 30 years as a resident and business owner I find just the opposite. If an opinion doesn’t fully prevail doesn’t mean it isn’t heard.

One last thing, I’ve always participated in the community, and for the past year have been serving as village trustee. I’m writing as a resident and a taxpayer on two properties. I’m willing and happy to continue investing in our infrastructural. It pays itself back.

So again, I urge you to think hard about this referendum’s unintended consequences, and vote NO on the April 4 referendum.


Lisa VanLaanen

Egg Harbor, Wis.

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