The current loss in property value in our city is one of the biggest issues that citizens need to be aware. The Journal Sentinel reported that, in the 2008 financial year, Brookfield experienced its first decline in overall value since 1961. A falling tax levy is the death knell for a community. The fact that the Mayor of Brookfield recently delivered a speech on the state of the city without mentioning this elephant in the room is amazing to me. The Mayor either does not know the serious implications of falling revenue or he is hoping that citizens will not scrutinize his efforts to reverse this negative trend. A declining tax levy in a city whose leader appears to be asleep at the switch is cause for major concern. Brookfield cannot maintain its high level of service and prosperity unless it hires new leadership.
When Kate Bloomberg was Mayor of Brookfield, through private investment we grew to bring in the third largest tax levy in the state. Said another way, the combined value of Brookfield’s real estate was smaller only than Milwaukee and Madison during Mayor Bloomberg’s tenure. I served under Mayor Bloomberg, and I know how hard she worked to affect positive changes to our revenues and expenses. The benefit of a high tax levy to residents of Brookfield is that it provides for a high level of services while maintaining lower property tax rates for residents. A declining tax levy means higher property taxes, and less new money for services such as schools, public safety, and public works.
Many types of businesses in our community pay in far more tax revenue than they receive in services since they do not use the public school system or WCTC, where 60% of our property taxes are spent. These businesses help offset the city’s expenses by doing things like installing their own fire suppression systems or hiring private security guards. Having a city culture that values and helps foster sustainable investment in Brookfield is an aspect of keeping property taxes low.
The city of Brookfield has deservedly or undeservedly developed a reputation for being hostile toward business enterprises, and a difficult community to work with. I have heard and experienced instances of the city using partiality in their administration of zoning laws to pressure service businesses out of the community. They often dissuade potential businesses from expanding in their current location or from moving into the city. These things are done in an attempt to remake the city to their preferred vision. Though well intentioned, these practices should cease. In a difficult economic environment, unfairness and dishonesty only works against our best efforts at economic development.
Lack of effective leadership makes for many chiefs and no warriors. In speaking with members of the community and the Common Council, it is clear that there is a lack of real leadership coming from the Mayor on key issues like the declining tax levy. I am told by many astute observers that the council is divided. The Mayor just wants everyone to get along, but there needs to be real leadership for this to happen
The professional boards I’ve been on have had real leadership. Leaders surround themselves with outstanding people and give them meaningful tasks. Accomplished individuals like the challenge of contributing to a goal or a solution to a challenging set of circumstances. Leaders look for these types of people and act to bring them into the process. A good Mayor needs to recruit good people and enable them to serve our city. Please allow me the opportunity to lead talented people for the greater good of the City with your vote on February 16th.