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MAYOR: La Crosse pools could close, police could lose resource officers, if Wisconsin Legislature doesn’t provide new funding formula



FILE - La Crosse Mayor Mitch Reynolds in the studio on April 10, 2023, for La Crosse Talk PM.

Huge cuts to La Crosse city services — like losing some police and closing pools — if the state doesn’t come up with a way to fund Wisconsin municipalities.

That was the general warning from La Crosse Mayor Mitch Reynolds on Monday, as the state is in the process of crafting a two-year budget, while also trying to decide how to spend $7.1 billion of surplus money.

Reynolds said he’ll be headed to the Dells on Wednesday for a budget public input session, to demand the Wisconsin state Legislature come up with a plan to fund municipalities, like his city.

“My goal is to identify, for lawmakers, exactly how impactful it will be if there aren’t significant changes made to how the state provides funding to local governments as it should be doing,” Reynolds said on La Crosse Talk PM.

Two things are happening in terms of a state budget.

One: Republicans, who control the Legislature, are crafting a two-year state budget, which will apparently take them through July — even though Gov. Tony Evers released his budget weeks ago.

Second: Republicans are trying to decide what to do with budget surplus money, which has ballooned to that $7.1 billion figure.

“At this point, I think the $7 billion surplus that they’re sitting on is a very good indication that they’re not doing their jobs, frankly,” Reynolds said on La Crosse Talk PM. “And it doesn’t mean that I want them to carve out $7 billion and just hand it over to us (the city). I want a formula that’s sustainable over time and giving out one-time funds, ain’t it.

“It’s our money and they’re sitting out,” Reynolds added. “They’re obviously hoarding it because they got $7 billion in excess. All the while that the funding for local government has been stagnated over the last 20 years, so that we can’t afford the increases just from inflation.”

It’s surplus money that has been sitting around for well over a year with no concrete plan in how to spend it. 

The GOP sat on the money for most of 2022, hoping it would get its guy for governor, but Tim Michels lost to Evers. Five years ago, under then-Republican-Gov. Scott Walker, budget surplus money was sent back to the taxpayers by way of a $100 child tax credit, months before the election against Evers.

The state’s Joint Finance Committee is holding four input sessions, getting the public’s take on priorities that should be included in the upcoming two-year budget and how to use the budget surplus.

One happened already, another happens in Eau Claire on Tuesday, a third at the Dells on Wednesday and the last in Minocqua on April 26. For some reason, the committee didn’t see fit to provide an online public session, where anyone across the state could provide input — though comments can be submitted here.

Reynolds said if the Legislature doesn’t change its model for funding municipalities, like La Crosse, the city is going to lose essential services, including within the police department.

“We’ll have to get rid of the Neighborhood Resource Officers, and that is an incredibly popular program,” Reynolds said, noting one cut that might have to come out of the La Crosse Police Department. “Those officers will have to go because, even though they have a significant impact on our community, a significant positive impact on our neighborhoods, that’s not something that we can afford.”

Reynolds also said La Crosse could be forced to close city pools.

“I don’t think there are any cities in the state of Wisconsin that have three public pools,” he noted. “And so that’s gonna be on the chopping block. And, not only that, recreational activities from the parks department. There’s going to be all sorts of things that we simply cannot do.”

Meanwhile, the state budget is essentially separate from the surplus money.

That $7.1 billion would have to be one-time spending and one of the plans to use some of it, is to give $292 million to the Milwaukee Brewers for stadium renovations.

“If you want to go spend ($292) million on American Family Field, go do it,” Reynolds said. “Carve off that surplus and go spend that money. But make sure that we have a sustainable funding formula, so that I can continue to provide police, fire, still have recreation and parks, still have a library service that makes sense, still be able to pay the contract for your garbage service — all the things that we find essential in our community that make the quality of life so high here.”

La Crosse Assembly Rep. Jill Billings held a public input session at the library on Monday and three Democrats on the Joint Finance Committee did come to town to listen, as around 40-50 people made comments. Wisconsin state Sen. Brad Pfaff and Assembly Rep. Steve Doyle of Onalaska held a local public input session last week.

Host of WIZM's La Crosse Talk PM | University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point graduate | Hometown: Greenville, Wis | Avid noonball basketball player and sand volleyballer in La Crosse

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  1. Bruce J Steinhoff

    April 11, 2023 at 12:39 pm

    Can’t we just use some of the $290,000,000 we were going to waste on a new school to pay for the pools and the police?

  2. Rhead

    April 12, 2023 at 9:19 am

    Here goes dumb ass Mitch again the sky is falling the sky is falling. If only he had some of the money he pissed away on the homeless. Liberals at work to screw the city of La Crosse

  3. Pete Dejour

    April 12, 2023 at 12:07 pm

    Interesting that it comes out as “We’ll have to get rid of the Neighborhood Resource Officers….” as a safety type issue. Be fiscally responsible and look at the other expenditures from the budget line items and make cuts to Lacrosse Center, Non departmental, Information tech, Mayor.

    Why aren’t small decreases in these areas looked at. It amazes me that Government thinks SPENDING is their job. Why not look at their own financial situation, if they have any money in their savings or checking it is SURPLUS…..SPEND IT. Don’t worry about cost increases or the future…SPEND IT NOW.

    That sounds pretty silly doesn’t it. I just don’t understand how you can not see inflation is rising and costs are also. Cut your spending.

  4. Markus

    April 17, 2023 at 12:11 am

    Reynolds: “Its our money…”

    This from the guy that just burned $25 million of covid funding without a dime for taxpayer relief. He’s as bad as Engel.

    The money belongs to the taxpayers. Return it to them.

    I wish I could be there to see Reynolds making his “demands” LOL

  5. Jim Green

    April 24, 2023 at 9:26 am

    Hey LaCrosse/Coulee region, want to fix these problems, VOTE THE DEMOCRATS OUT! I bet Republican run cities, don’t have these problems, if they are fiscally responsible, and spend money where it makes sense.

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