RANDY'S RAMBLINGS: Public facilities reflect community prideOpinion
I’m weighing into this debate with considerable trepidation. Some of the toxicity of national and state politics has seeped into our local discussions. Voicing an opinion can make you a target...
By: Randy Hanson, Hudson Star-Observer
I’m weighing into this debate with considerable trepidation.
Some of the toxicity of national and state politics has seeped into our local discussions. Voicing an opinion can make you a target -- especially if you’ve got a checkered past like I do.
On the other hand, I’m enough of a grizzled reporter that if someone doesn’t tell me how stupid (or worse) I am every once in a while I worry that I’m not doing my job.
I came down from the Northwoods 15 years ago and learned that some Hudsonites regard those of us reared north of Hwy. 8 as less than urbane. It’s true. We are. I come from country where a new pair of blue jeans and a Packers jersey are considered evening wear.
A little over a year ago, my wife and I bought a small patch of woods outside my hometown where I can work off the frustrations of journalism by cutting brush, a la George W. Bush and the presidency.
At about the same time, a new public library and museum went up on Main Street in Luck, next to the Natural Alternative Food Co-op. (It was Martinson’s IGA store when I worked there as a high school kid.)
I’m not real fond of the green metal roof or silo-shaped entrance (now I’m making friends there, too), but it’s a pretty impressive building for a village of 1,119.
Roberts, too, with 1,651 residents, has an attractive and spacious new public library.
On my trips to the woods I sometimes pass by the Milltown fire station, with its nine engine bays and attached offices and training space. It’s a metal building, but it’s bigger than the Hudson Public Safety Building and no doubt meets the needs of the Milltown Volunteer Fire Department.
The same can’t be said about the needs of the Hudson Fire Department, which shares the seven bays of the Public Safety Building with St. Croix EMS ambulances.
Milltown’s 2010 population: 917.
There’s something wrong with the picture here.
On another note, the four municipal partners in the Hudson Area Joint Library haven’t been funding the library to the level that any of the other public libraries in St. Croix County are funded.
Now the city’s Plan Commission is recommending that the City Council deny the Hudson School District’s petition to rezone the St. Croix Meadows dog track so a secondary school can be built there.
The primary concern? Money. A loss of tax revenue.
That line of reasoning is amusing to me, the product of a community where incomes, lifestyles and houses were considerably more modest.
We’ve got two property tax bills to compare now, and the assessment ratios are nearly identical (1.004 for the town of Luck and 1.062 for the village of North Hudson), making it a fair comparison.
Our total net tax rate for the Luck property is $15.87 per $1,000 of value. The rate for our North Hudson home is $15.50.
We pay $7.44 per $1,000 of assessed property value to fund the Luck School District. The Hudson School District charges just $6.82 per $1,000.
Growing up, I don’t remember hearing the complaints about school spending in Luck that I hear in Hudson. Granted, I was a kid and not especially tuned-in to local government, but even then I think I would have picked up on the negativity if it was equal to what I’m hearing and reading these days.
Luck’s is just a sliver of a school district, and its residents in the 1960s and ’70s, at least, were proud and protective of it. I’m guessing they still are, or it would have disappeared into a bigger one years ago. It certainly isn’t the most cost-effective district in the state. I don’t think that’s the major concern.
I’ve still got that small-town boosterism in me, I guess.
I don’t have any kids in the game, but I’d still like a high school that is the class of the region.
I don’t have the leisure time to be a big library user, but I like having it there for children and their parents, senior citizens and job seekers. I plan to use it more myself in a few years.
Public facilities are a reflection of community pride, I believe. A majority of city residents believe it, too, considering that 58 percent of voters approved of the school district’s purchase of the dog track for a secondary school site. Some years earlier, a healthy majority of city residents also voted for buying the former corporate headquarters building at First and Vine streets for the library and police department.
All this being said, the Hudson City Council faces a real conundrum concerning its 2013 budget. The city is limited by state law to a tax revenue increase of a little more than $40,000. That doesn’t allow upping the library budget to the level necessary for property owners to be exempt from the county library tax without major cuts elsewhere.