Wrightstown Village Board looking at static tax rate

Brian Roebke photo
The Wrightstown Village Board approved bids last week for work on Mueller Park. Work includes slope stability, docks, platform, and kayak launch. Some of the work gets underway yet this fall.

By Brian Roebke
While they have the chance to lower village taxes, trustees feel keeping the tax rate stable is important.
At last week’s Wrightstown Village Board meeting, Village Administrator Travis Coenen presented trustees with several options for this year’s budget and tax levy, and trustees preferred the option that kept resident taxes very similar to last year, giving the village government a little more spending power.
“I think it’s in the best interest right now to do this because otherwise what you’re going to see if you get a decrease this year … but next year it’s an increase,” Coenen said.
The additional $315,000 in tax money will go toward economic development, allowing the village to use that instead of bonding for development.
“I think it’s better to keep people flat versus having a big drop followed by a big increase,” Trustee Andy Lundt said. “I think we should be consistent and it’s probably easier for everybody’s plan.”
In his report to the board, Coenen wrote that promoting sustainable and conservative taxation practices would be an easier task if the community wasn’t divided by two counties, Brown and Outagamie.
The village is growing, however, and that’s very positive in supporting village operations into the future.
The levy limit increased about $100,000 this year to $2,996,580. The proposed levy is $2,340,000, which is about $656,000 under the maximum.
Projected total revenues are expected to be about $3,060,000, with a proposed expenditure of $3,045,000.
The proposed total mill rate is about $22.04 in Brown County and $20.60 in Outagamie County.
The combined total proposed levy (including Wrightstown schools, NWTC, FVTC, village, and the counties), will reflect in an approximate 9-cent tax decrease per $1,000, which equates to $27 decrease in taxes on an average $300,000 home in Outagamie County and a 20-cent increase per $1,000, which equates to $60 increase in taxes on the average $300,000 home in Brown County. This does include the 64-cent Wrightstown school referendum cost.
Key components of the proposed budget include a $55,000 increase for the police department, coming in the way of an additional part-time officer and a lease of a third squad car.
Trustee Sue Byers asked about the part-time position that Chief Greg Dieke said came out of the public safety committee meeting. “We talked about the growth that this community is going to have and some of the things that will be required as we grow as a village,” he said.
His recommendation was to start adding an officer here and there to reach the point where the village gets to the $5,000 population and law enforcement requirements increase.
Another spending item for the village is the upgrade to Mueller Park. The board approved a pair of bids for that project, for $373,101.50 for Highway Land-scapers of Little Chute, and $138,839 from Mammoth Construction of Manitowoc.
Highway Landscapers will work on the paving, walks, and slope stability portion of the project, while Mammoth will work on the docks, platform, and kayak launch.
The project grew from its original concept to include erosion control on the south end of the park that includes rip rap and retaining walls to stabilize the shoreline.
The original cost estimate was $351,000 but bids came in at $543,000. The village was awarded grants and is waiting word on more, so the cost to the village will be less.
“Overall the need from the village is about $304,000 for this complete project,” Coenen said. The village has almost $375,000 budgeted will needs to come up with the balance from the economic development fund.
“I think there’s still some monies within the economic development fund that we can cover this,” Coenen said, noting it could also come from capital borrowing next year.
Some of the work will begin yet this fall, with others in the spring.
The board also discussed making updates to the Chapter 206 zoning regulations in regard to accessory buildings in the rural residential district.
The question that came up was some conflicts with current wording.
“The older homes all had detached garages and right now our code says there’s only one accessory building allowed,” Coenen said, noting a garage is considered an accessory building, so a homeowner could not have a small garden shed in their yard.
He believed the garden shed should be allowed in those cases and board members discussed the sizes of garages and sheds, settling on Dan Segerstrom’s motion for a total of 3,000 sq. ft. for two accessory structures, with the largest no more than 2,000 sq. ft.
In the R-1 residential zoning area, homeowners would be allowed two accessory buildings, with the total being 1,250 sq. ft. Coenen noted there are green space limitations that can restrict the size of buildings depending on the size of the lot.
Coenen said there still needs to be a public hearing before the board can vote on the change.
The board reviewed potential layouts for residential developments around Royal St. Patrick’s Golf Links. They are all 80-ft. lots, with berms requested for the outside of the development. Streets will match the current streets in the adjoining development.
Halloween is a subject discussion among families during the coronavirus pandemic, and Coenen said his peer groups are saying it’s up to the parents if they want to take their kids trick or treating. Byers, appearing virtually while recovering from COVID-19, said she has not gone out to dinner with her husband since 2019, has a social circle of four people, and runs errands but always masks up, and they still caught the virus.
“To me, I think I’m not going to turn my light on, I’m not going to hand out candy, I don’t know if I were a parent and I were out walking the kid around the neighborhood if I would pick up anything,” she said.
She noted positivity rates are well above the goal and she didn’t want to be a buzzkill because she knows it’s really important to people, but she wondered if allowing trick or treating was the best thing from the health standpoint.
“It’s a horrible thing,” she said.
Dieke and Coenen said the only thing the village could do is not promote it but noted people will do it anyway.
Village President Dean Erickson said the village isn’t forcing people to hand out candy or parents to bring their children outside. If residents don’t want to hand out candy, they should keep their porch light off.
Fire Chief Mike Schampers asked what the fire department’s role should be, but trustees directed him to do what they feel is appropriate, but to not hand anything to children.
The board approved cancelling a contract with a band that night at the scenic overlook.
In her COVID-19 aid update, Clerk-Treasurer Michelle Seidl told the board the village has received $2,355.80 through the 2020 Wisconsin Election Commis-sion CARES subgrant. Out of 48,366 available, $25,971.41 was submitted through the Wisconsin Department of Administration Routes to Recovery grant.
In addition, $10,472.23 in expenses were submitted through the FEMA Grants Portal. Appli-cation is pending on CRC Project Development and if approved, 75 percent will be reimbursed.
She also set out 651 election ballots on Sept. 16, with 690 ballots sent by the day of her report, Oct. 6.
Early in-person begins Tuesday, Oct. 20, at the village hall.
Related to COVID-19, Coenen said boat launch fee receipts are about double this year compared to last, with people finding a safe place on the water.