The 2020 budget is set for the town of Hazelhurst after supervisors unanimously approved its passage Tuesday evening.
“Levy limits are still in place,” chair Ted Cushing observed of the state regulation. “The town is in good financial shape, I can tell you that.”
The general levy for 2020 is $403,700, up slightly from last year’s $400,709. Total revenues for 2020 are at $704,698, up from 2019’s $689,338 — just over a 2% increase. Total expenditures also were just above a 2% rise. Total taxes for 2020 are .74% higher than last year, taking into account the levy limits.
“$2,967 is what we were allowed to raise,” Cushing said. “We are just having an unbelievable year in building permits.”
The town of Hazelhurst ranks fifth in Oneida County’s 21 townships, up from recent years at seventh.
“Because of the increase, we will have to have an appraisal this year. That money is in the budget,” Cushing said.
The election budget for 2020 for the town is at $10,000.
“There could be as many as six elections (in 2020),” Cushing explained. “And they are expensive.”
There was no public comment during the budget hearing.
Room tax fee option
Also of note for 2020, Cushing informed the board and public attendees that a special meeting is to be set regarding imposing a room tax fee in the township on short term rentals. This would include short-term stays including businesses such as resorts, lodging and hotels.
“A 1% room tax..we would get all of that ($3,000) back if we put it on (one) resort,” Cushing said of the short term room tax, which is set in many northern townships and cities. “There will be a special meeting of all the business to tell them what our plans are, and to move forward from there … from all of the conversations I’ve heard, this seems to be the thing to do.”
Add referendum questions
As have other towns, Hazelhurst was asked to add to their April election ballot two questions to poll voters. One to amend “… the United States Constitution in regards to campaign contributions” as well as another question regarding redistricting. The non-binding questions were brought forth by United to Amend and concern regulation of campaign contributions to candidates and gerrymandering, respectively.
United to Amend is a non-partisan state network which states it is “… dedicated to restoring our representative democracy, by minimizing the corruptive influence that money has on our political process.” Some 800 communities in the nation have passed resolutions calling for a such constitutional amendments, including at least 140 in Wisconsin, according to their website.
The town had already agreed to put the question out to voters on the April ballot concerning redistricting.
Supervisor Harland Lee noted he had concerns with the wording of the potential referendum question on campaign contributions now being brought forth.
“It says ‘… right protected by citizens of the U.S. … that could be anybody, an undocumented immigrant. It should be a U.S. citizen. That’s the big concern I have,” he said. “(And also) with all expenditures be publicly disclosed … I have a problem with that as well. (Such) information used by different groups to punish.”
Dave Burton of United to Amend said the question aimed to provide transparency and also protect donors.
“We’ve gone too far in eliminating transparency,” Burton said. “I think it’s a real concern but the feeling is we need a better balance.”
Lee relayed the question, as proposed, were not something he could support.
“This would give voters a chance to decide whether to support it or not,” Burton said.
“I understand this’ll be an uphill battle,” supervisor Gilbert Kettner said. “It will probably still wind up in the Supreme Court.”
Cushing proposed the town attorney could look into the campaign amount question verbiage, though he had conflicting thoughts on the matter.
“We agreed to the redistricting question, then we had this thrown at us,” Cushing said. “I personally have had mixed feelings about this. I think we’re doing our fair share by putting the redistricting (question) on our ballot.”
The board voted two yes, one no — Lee — to have the town’s attorney look at the wording of the campaign limit referendum question. The attorney also will draft wording on the redistricting question.
More town news
In other business, the Hazelhurst Town Board:
• Approved an administrative review permit for Gary and Ronda Lawry Living Trust to rent a dwelling as a tourism rooming house for no less than seven consecutive days on North Shore Drive. The county as well as the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources had already gone over and approved the matter as well, Cushing indicated.
• OKed the request from the Bearskin Lake Association to place a “danger rock hazard” buoy on a part of the Big Bearskin Lake.
• Adopted Katherine Point Road as a town road.
• Heard that the previous $3,000 spent on tourism brochures will be put into enhancing the website in the future.