By Dave Fidlin


Whitewater’s municipal leaders last week went on record and opposed a plan in Gov. Scott Walker’s 2015-17 biennium budget to reduce funding for public universities — including the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.

While UW-Whitewater cuts do not directly impact the city’s budget or any municipal functions, the Common Council in their Feb. 17 discussion agreed to adopt a resolution stating their sentiments.

“As a major driver of economic activity and development in the City of Whitewater, these cuts would ultimately have an impact on the community as a whole,” City Manager Cameron Clapper said in a memorandum to the council explaining the rationale behind the resolution.

While refinements could still be made, Walker’s upcoming budget plan calls for a $300 million reduction in the University of Wisconsin system’s general operating fund. If implemented, those cuts would trickle down to each of the four- and two-year campuses across the state.

UW-Whitewater itself faces the prospect of losing between $6.4 million and $8 million in state funding, according to some analysts who have distilled Walker’s budget.

Staff at the nonpartisan Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau have been analyzing all facets of the biennium budget, including the proposed UW System cuts. According to the organization, UW-Whitewater would be the campus most impacted, losing 18.6 percent of state income.

As they weighed in on the merits of adopting the resolution, council members offered different perspectives but sounded a unanimous tone in opposition of the proposed cut in funding.

Council member Ken Kidd acknowledged the city’s gesture was only advisory, but he said he felt it was important to be part of a larger collective voice across the state.

“The hope is that enough gestures occur that they reach a critical mass and make at least a small difference,” Kidd said.

Fellow council member Lynn Binnie, who alongside Kidd was instrumental in bringing the resolution to fruition, said he viewed it as a community issue — not an issue insulated to UW-Whitewater itself.

“I share the concern so many have of the impact on our community,” Binnie said. “Obviously, the university is a significant driver of our economic health.”

Council member Sarah Bregant, a UW-Whitewater student, said she was pleased Kidd and Binnie made the potential cuts an issue of concern to the entire community.

“This is money that is used for excellent academic programs, which draw students to our community,” Bregant said of the funding cuts. “I hope this resolution makes our legislators realize we will suffer quite a bit.”

While she is an ardent Walker supporter, council member Stephanie Abbott said she was concerned about the impact the cuts would have on UW-Whitewater. Abbott is a graduate of the university.

“This community has an incredible economy, due to a large part of the students who spend their money here, work here and choose to live in the city,” Abbott said. “I hope and sincerely believe that the people who represent Whitewater at the state level will make the right decision and find some better way.”

In a separate, but related, agenda item last week, Clapper discussed with the council what impact Walker’s budget could have on city functions, as well as the Whitewater Unified School District.

As proposed, Walker’s budget calls on municipalities statewide to continue adhering to property tax levy limits linked to new construction. A line-item in the biennium budget, shifting property assessment duties to the county, could save the city about $35,000 annually, Clapper said.


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