Even as it was becoming clearer over the past two years that Brookfield’s financial position was headed in the wrong direction, officials with the exception of Trustee Michael Towner said they didn’t think it would come to a tax referendum. Further, they said, they weren’t sure voters would go for it anyway, given the deteriorating general economy and more recent tax increases from schools and the public library.
Well, the unthinkable is about to be unleashed on the public. While it’s in the form of an “investigation” right now, we’re pretty certain there’s going to be some sort of tax referendum question for Brookfield on the February primary ballot.
The reason is the village realizes it needs to raise money sooner rather than later. If it waits any longer, it’ll be a good two years before the village realizes any additional money for operations – if a referendum is successful, which is in no way guaranteed.
This is going to take one heck of a sales job. In addition to an economy still mired in a recession (forgive us if we’re not jumping on the “recession is over” bandwagon just yet), Brookfield officials have to win the trust of voters who have seen some odd things in the last couple of years with respect to village finances.
It was just a year ago that the real financial condition of the village began showing its face. A tax levy snfau involving the library, a stunningly low 2009 consumer price index, pension investment wipeouts all contributed to the bleak outlook for 2009 and 2010.
The last nail in the coffin was the 2008 financial audit, which proved that the village didn’t have the money in its general fund to sustain operations without either more revenue or more cuts.
Convincing voters will be tough. The best way for the village to make its case is to present the situation clearly, without hysteria, but with a real sense of what the numbers are.
And if voters are being asked to suck it up and pay more money just to keep services at the pretty basic levels they are at today, then we’d also request that stakeholders in village government, from administrators to union employees look at what they can do to make the blow as pain-free as possible.
Voters are losing jobs, taking pay cuts, paying more for health insurance. If you want voter support, we’d suggest that village government and employees keep that reality in mind.
When it comes down to it, the village – employees and residents alike – are necessarily a partnership. Taxpayers pay for services that employees deliver. Both sides must believe they have each other’s best interests in mind or the whole puzzle comes apart.