The La Crosse city council doesn’t usually vote on budget issues until the fall, but two council members held a summertime listening session Monday to learn what local taxpayers are thinking.
Rebecca Schwarz and Jennifer Trost represent the 10th and 11th Districts of La Crosse, respectively, on the common council. They invited residents from their districts to the South Side Library in La Crosse.
Schwarz thinks having a smaller meeting, with about a dozen citizens attending, could attract people who might not show up at a formal council meeting.
“I know that coming down to City Hall can be just a bridge too far for some folks,” she said. “Coming up to a microphone with everyone there, and being recorded, can be really intimidating for a lot of folks, so we just wanted to try something new.”
People who spoke at the meeting had concerns about issues like street projects and affordable housing.
“We have finally figured out the process and some of the terminology,” Trost told the audience, “but there are other types of legal issues, issues related to the state and how the state allocates money to us that we’re still learning.”
Schwarz added that the listening session was intended to be like meetings with taxpayers often held by state legislators.
The La Crosse city budget is approved in stages during the fall, with the regular operating budget normally getting a vote around Thanksgiving.
The city adopted a $69 million budget in 2021, where the largest expenses — 30 percent — going to police and fire services.