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Budget Goes Too Far for Parks, Says Local Group

Park Arthur's $1.1 million price tag and $50,000 for Idle Isle are too much to handle in one year, according to Stand Up Muskego

To the Editor:

Stand Up Muskego would like to recognize and thank the aldermen who have so far voiced their support for the continued funding of the Community Festival Parade, Muskego Senior Taxi and the Jammin on Janesville events.  These community-oriented activities and events offer a great service to Muskego’s senior citizens, families and businesses.  Without the continued support from the city, the services provided would be reduced and those who benefit from them would be negatively impacted.

As we have followed the 2013 city budget process there are a few things that concern us and they are as follows:

1.)   The idea that the city would create a new budget category to fund all of Muskego’s community groups and charities.  This idea apparently first came about during the July 10, 2012 Finance Committee meeting. 

A civic activity like the Community Festival Parade, Senior Taxi and Jammin on Janesville directly benefit Muskego’s residents and businesses.  They rely, in part, on financial support from the city. 

However, groups like the Muskego Lion’s Club, for example, are part of a broad international organization and therefore, we would think they have the available means to help support their cause.  Additionally, as far as we know, they have not asked the city for any funds.  Likewise any charitable group or foundation that resides here may not only provide benefits to Muskego residents but also to people outside our city. 

Stand Up Muskego cautions the city against creating any sort of general fund open to groups that do not solely provide a direct benefit to Muskego residents and/or business community. 

2.)   The increased spending on Park Arthur and Idle Isle.  While we all value our city’s parks, the council appears to be set on spending more money than what was asked for by the Parks department on Park Arthur and new money on Idle Isle, which might not be a wise investment as that park is not widely used by Muskego residents (except for as the primary boat launch onto Little Muskego Lake). 

The Parks department asked for over $800,000 in the 2013 budget for Park Arthur but the common council added about $300,000 for a shelter.  Yes, we would like Park Arthur completed as soon as possible but it must be done in a fiscally sound manner.  Therefore, we would like the city to reconsider this increased spending and try to include the various civic groups and local sports teams who will use Park Arthur’s playing fields in looking for any additional funding.  For example, the city could fund the park’s restrooms but any shelter and concession stands could be funded by those aforementioned stakeholders.  It is our understanding that this was the original intent when the plans for Park Arthur were first created, and the stakeholders were included in a conversation in regards to this prior to the start of the park’s construction.

As for Idle Isle, its park area is already limited and adding additional parking spaces will only reduce it further.  The beach area does not offer the best swimming conditions and making the beach even larger than it is now will not help improve it.  Stand Up Muskego believes the idea to spend almost $50,000 on Idle Isle is in part a reaction to the last Lake Park proposal and is being used as a way to assuage the feelings of a small group of residents.  This is not a wise decision and would not be a proper use of taxpayer money.

3.)   Lastly, Stand Up Muskego believes there is a disconnect between the business community and some of the current and past members of the common council.  This was somewhat evident during the October 9, 2012 Committee of the Whole meeting, in which the 2013 budget was discussed and several local business owners presented their case in support of Jammin on Janesville events.  The business owners present at that meeting were upset when an alderman implied the city was spending a lot of money on Janesville Road for their sole benefit.  That is not true as the Janesville Road project will benefit everyone in Muskego (residents and business owners alike).

A few local business owners have expressed to us their frustration over not having open communication and support from some of our aldermen.  We ask the common council and the city government, as a whole, to find a way to work directly with the Chamber of Commerce and the business community to improve Muskego’s business climate. 

The residents of Muskego shoulder a much larger part of the tax burden that is necessary.  With the Moorland Road corridor, a soon to be rebuilt Janesville Road, close proximity to the state’s largest urban center and abundant natural resources that other communities only wish they could have to use, Muskego should be able to correct this unbalance within the residential/commercial tax ratio. 

We ask all our government and business leaders to work together and put away any past animosity in order to build a better future for Muskego and all of its residents.  Please keep in mind that true leaders always lead from the front.

Stand Up Muskego would like to remind all residents to take part in their government by staying informed on the issues facing our city.  This can be done by attending the various city meetings and/or visiting online resources and newspapers like Muskego Patch and Muskego Now.  You can find a meeting calendar along with the current meeting agendas, minutes and recordings of past meetings on the city’s website: http://www.ci.muskego.wi.us/.  The city is holding a public hearing on the budget this Monday night at City Hall, 6:30p.m.                 

We would also like to extend an invitation to the general public and any member of the Common Council who would like to discuss these issues or have any questions regarding Stand Up Muskego.  Please email us at standupmuskego@yahoo.com or contact Matt Johnson or Tracy Snead directly.

 

Thank you,

Stand Up Muskego

www.standupmuskego.com

Current Members: Aaron Robertson (Treasurer), Tracy Snead (Chair), Matt Johnson (Co-Chair), Rob Lucas (Communications), Kathy Mueller (Secretary), Ginny Kohler, John Engelhardt, Raymond and Marguerite Ingold, Barb Schroeder and Pat Korth

Denise Konkol (Editor) October 20, 2012 at 04:51 PM
I sit in about 100 meetings a year, perhaps more. What has surprised me was the lack of attendance in the budget meetings, so I would urge everyone to understand the nature of the discussion regarding nonprofits. Nothing is likely to happen this year, mainly because there is no policy on how the city should handle such requests. However, it's a good discussion to have as some on the council feel we might be going down a slippery slope and need to more clearly define, and perhaps codify, what is appropriate in giving money to any organization. The mayor has said that if it is a civic event or service, per the League of Municipalities definition, that would be the correct way to go. With regard to Idle Isle, 50,000 is not that much money, and as they are looking to rehab the ADA accessible pier as part of that expense, I'm not sure how that is irresponsible spending. I use Idle Isle, and on several occasions this summer, we had to use the overflow lot in the middle of the week because there were so many people using the park. Let's step away from blanket statements that use "never" or make sweeping generalizations. With regard to Park Arthur, there are already partnerships being formed with local groups and sponsorships to pay for costs of various features. These cannot be included in the budget number, so I would be surprised if that $1.1 million is needed in its entirety. Take a breath, folks...
S.U.M. October 20, 2012 at 07:19 PM
Denise, The department head asked for over $800k and was given that plus an extra $300k. That does not happen all to often and it's interesting when you consider this is supposed to be a fiscally-conservative council. And yes there was talk of civic groups funding a shelter/concession stand for Park Arthur but that does not appear to be going anywhere now.
S.U.M. October 20, 2012 at 07:26 PM
As for Idle Isle, $50k is a lot of money and many of your readers would disagree with you. Yes, the ADA accessible pier is worthwhile (just because we did not mention it in our statement does not mean we are against it) but extra parking will eat up the limited green space while the beach itself would need a lot of work to make it a decent place to swim. As for the park being busy the few times you visited it this past season, please keep in mind it was one of the hottest and driest summers in recent memory. Matt Johnson, who grew up in Muskego and has visited Idle Isle more than most will tell you this park is limited in its appeal and its viability as a major city attraction. "It is what it is and you can only do so much with that park." Our main point with Idle Isle and this new funding for it is this: it appears to us to be a reaction to the Lake Park issue. Many of the opponents to that proposal stated the city already had a lake park and it needed attention from the city. Then you compare at who brought this up on the common council and at some of the aldermen who support spending this money with where they stood on the Lake Park proposal, you should come to the same conclusion as us: it's all about politics. (Also ask yourself why some of these improvements were not considered or supported by these same aldermen before this year.)
Denise Konkol (Editor) October 23, 2012 at 06:41 PM
Here's further clarification on which structure is indicated in this spending. http://www.ci.muskego.wi.us/parksrecreation/DeptHome/WhatsNew/tabid/905/articleType/ArticleView/articleId/113/Park-Arthur-Approved-Conceptual-Plan.aspx The Pavilion that was suggested to be included by Ald. Schaumberg and approved by a straw poll by the COW is located in the middle of the park, a fair distance from the sports fields and to the best of my understanding would include restrooms and be similar to the pavilions that are in the county park and other City parks available for rental to all residents in the same way. There are also concession stands in the conceptual drawing for the sporting fields, but those were not discussed or included in the approved straw poll vote.

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