By Dave Fidlin

Correspondent

While municipal officials still are hammering out details associated with the City of Whitewater’s 2019 operating budget, a quasi-independent group devoted to economic development has assembled its piece of the puzzle.

At a special meeting Oct. 16, members of the Community Development Authority approved a budget for the year ahead, clocking in at $179,622. Both sides of the ledger — anticipated revenues and expenditures — match up in the approved document.

The plan set in motion pertains to general CDA operations. Officials also combed through other ancillary components under the panel’s auspices, including tax-incremental financing (TIF) district No. 4, which is slated to sunset in 2021.

The general operations plan covers a range of expense items, including staff salaries and marketing efforts. The CDA derives its revenue from multiple sources, including the city’s operating budget and proceeds culled from TIF districts.

At the recent meeting, officials also discussed one of the organization’s weightier expense items — legal fees — which are being trimmed from $15,000 in the 2018 budget to $10,500 in the plan set in motion for the year ahead.

While the CDA will continue to rely on legal expertise on an as-needed basis, Whitewater CDA Executive Director Dave Carlson said the change in the dollar figure reflects on back office procedures.

The CDA commonly incurs upfront legal fees for loan programs tailored to new businesses that are aimed at spurring economic development within Whitewater.

“Whenever possible, I will try billing things out to a specific project,” Carlson said, pointing out the legal fees can be recouped by adding the expense into a loan cost.

CDA member Al Stanek said he hopes the operating budget affords enough flexibility to pivot, if so needed, to carry out a specific project or initiative mid-year.

“It would be nice to have a little pot of money that we could use just in case we found out so-and-so community did this, and it cost a couple thousand dollars,” Stanek said. “Rather than standing back and scratching our heads, it would be nice to know that there’s a place we could go.”

In response to the comment, Carlson said mechanisms exist within the budget that the CDA can tap into if the appointed body so desires.

Also front and center in the recent discussion was the state of TIF districts in Whitewater. Two of the city’s six active TIFs are expected to mature in 2021, according to projections.

Municipalities across Wisconsin have been using TIF as a mechanism for economic growth. The terms of the district lay a platform to incentivize development in areas where it might not otherwise occur.

TIF No. 4, which is closest to nearing the end of its life cycle, encompasses areas in and near the Whitewater Business and Technology parks.

The imminent sunsetting of TIF No. 4 can serve as a springboard for reviewing the status of the city’s other TIF districts, which are sprinkled throughout other areas of the city, primarily in outlying sections near municipal borders.

“Some of these preliminary discussions have already started,” Carlson said. “I think they will intensify once we are done with the budget for next year.”

 
 

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