Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Which unit of government am I paying for today?

Steve Prestegard sees opportunity for efficiency at a time of $5.4 billion dollar deficit spending. It's time to combine different levels of government before Wisconsin's 3,120 units of government strangle us to death with taxes.

All those special-service districts (at least the ones that don’t cross county lines) could be administered, for instance, by the counties they’re in. Towns that surround just one city or village (say, Ripon) could be merged into that city or village with little or no additional cost to extend municipal services. There are a large number of school districts that could be merged together for administrative savings, without necessarily closing schools, while giving teachers in specialty subjects more students to teach. As the Journal Sentinel points out, serious consideration should be given to merging the technical college system and two-year UW schools as part of taking technical colleges off property taxes.

Such suggestions will have to be made through incentives, not threats, based on the experience of other states. Merging towns into cities will have to include some kind of protection against instant property tax increases, for instance, particularly on farmland.