By Daniel Kramer
HOWARD — The Howard Village Board unanimously passed the 2023 budget at its Nov. 14 meeting.
Chris Haltom, director of administrative services, said the village is looking for a proposed tax levy increase of $729,285 or a 9.9% increase from the 2022 budget.
“However, with our revaluation that grew the tax base by about 25%,” Haltom said. “We are seeing a tax rate decrease and the tax levy increasing primarily for three different reasons.
“You have the debt schedule payment from 2021. The $4.5 million is a little over $320,000. That will be on the tax roll in 2023, that’s increasing the levy.
“Adding two new firefighters… is about $200,000.
“And then what I would call your normal kind of increases, operating increases… is a little over $200,000.”
Haltom said that they had a small increase in the capital project funds as well.
“The tax levy limit the state has imposed since early 2000s has been in place,” he said. “It’s based on the percentage of the budget from the previous year. It’s tied to the percentage of growth that we have in the community, which was a little over 2% this year or $145,000.”
Capital projects and equipment in the budget include the $10 million Schmidt Pavilion TIF project (A TIF allows local governments to invest in public infrastructure and other improvements up-front and then pay later for those investments by capturing the future anticipated increase in tax revenues generated by the project.)
Other capital expenditures include:
$84,000 for two police squad car replacements
$160,000 for a pair of two-yard dump trucks
$75,000 for a toolcat and forklift
$250,000 for Velp Avenue trail asphalt
$250,000 for Lineville Road planning and engineering
$1,900,000 for completion of Hwy 29/County Road VV interchange
Board approves comprehensive land use plan
The village board also voted to approve the Comprehensive Land Use Plan with Trustee Catherine Hughes voting against it.
A comprehensive plan guides a community’s “physical, social, and economic development.”
“The Wisconsin Comprehensive Planning Law does not mandate how a local community should grow, but it requires public participation at the local level in deciding a vision for the community’s future,” said Peter Herreid, program and policy analyst at the State of Wisconsin Department of Administration.
Every 10 years, local governments are required by state law to update the comprehensive plan, and the village last updated its plan in April 2012.
“This go-around, the village contracted with MSA to provide professional services to us with that process,” Community Development Director Dave Wiese said.
Lauren Dietz, consultant for MSA Professional Services, outlined the background of public participation,
“September through November 2021 was when the community survey (through UW River Falls) was done.
I came on in January of 2022, where we did the kickoff, and we also did a presentation to the Plan Commission and the Board of Trustees.
“We did the stakeholder interviews March through May, spent most of the summer putting the plan together, held a public information meeting in August, took feedback on that, made some adjustments to the plan, had an open house in September, took the feedback that we had from that, made some adjustments to the plan with the planning commissions that same month and made the changes that the planning commission recommended. And then they sent it to the Village Board for potential adoption which is where we are tonight.”
Wiese said a couple of key things in the plan for the future of development in Howard are the boundary expansion over the current municipal boundaries.
“The plan dictates how we’ll grow to the west,” he said. “Right now, we’re at 20,000 population and by the end of the plan, we’ll be at 30,000. The biggest thing is we’re trying to provide all different types of housing choices.
“And then another main aspect in the economic development is with the VV interchange, which provides tremendous opportunity for commercial and industrial development.
“Finally, the Howard Commons project is really going to be the catalyst for the area and should be done by July of ‘23 and that is going to be a great attraction to Howard.”
Another development idea that was pushed was the potential for a grocery store on the west side of the village, especially with possibly adding some more land within the next 10 to 20 years.
“Having a grocery store on that side of the village would be great,” Dietz said. “And then commercial/industrial development in West Howard specifically, possibly looking at some office parks. There are concerns that the village is rapidly running out of infill space and there are some disagreements for and against medium and high density housing.”
Dietz said that some of the longer term residents are more against the new housing development ideas than some of the developers and newer residents. Some residents, generally the longer term residents and some of the older generation worry about the pace of urbanization.
“Concerns over the United Health building are universal,” she said.
Howard Village Board President Burt McIntyre then asked Dietz if she had heard any of the comments by the people that were in the public hearing?
“Yes,” she said. “Many of them were comments that were made previously, and were incorporated into the plan to the greatest extent possible. A couple of issues related to that is, the more specific you get with a plan like this is a 10,000 foot view or a 30,000 foot view of the community, the more specific you get, the longer the plan gets, the less likely anyone is to read it.”
“So in terms of best practices, when it comes to comprehensive plans, within the past five years or so they’ve really started to start condensing them and try to be as helpful as possible to guide the decision making without kind of forcing your hand on decision making. The other part of it is, as mentioned before, it’s a living document. So as conditions change, the community changes as the makeup of the board of trustees or village staff changes, this isn’t a static document. It’s meant to have changes made to it. So as land is annexed into the village or as land uses change possibly, there are mechanisms to be able to make amendments to that.”
Dietz went on to say that there were almost 2,700 responses received to the community survey.
“In any community, usually we’re lucky to crack 500,” she said.
Trustee Ray Suennen pointed out that the village did a comprehensive plan 10 years ago and asked Dietz if MSA had done any comparisons “as you went along or when you were done to see if there was any gigantic change? I understand you tweaked and there may have been changes in main arterial roads or etc. But at the 30,000 foot level, would you say that it’s still 90%, somewhat similar to what the prior comprehensive plan was?”
Dietz said she couldn’t put a percentage on it, but that MSA does generally start off of the original plan.
“But considering the pace of population change in Howard, and the rapidity with which the village is running out of space to develop, there are probably some larger differences in this than it would be with maybe a more rural community that isn’t growing as quickly,” she added.
McIntyre commented that this is a plan that is subject to change.
“Boards are different, conditions are different,” he said. “The plan is going to be altered, no matter how hard we try not to. My only concern is that if we change the plan, and let’s say we change it in specific areas, we should have a good reason for doing so. And track that plan in terms of cause and effect.
“And I think that when we work with that plan, it has to be something that is a living document to this board. And that’s the only way it can really be a, you know, a planning document. And so that’s my biggest concern. I think some of the comments in the public hearing were appropriate, not necessarily accurate. But I appreciate those comments, and it helps me make a better decision.”
Trustee Hughes said that a lot of her constituents are not happy with this plan.
“It’s not conducive to what they have right now and what may come in the future. They’re not happy. But Paul (Evert, Village administrator) and everybody here took time to personally talk to them not only at the public hearings and the open houses, but whenever the constituents had time to come in and talk. So I appreciate that. There’s a lot of time and energy spent on this and a lot of good studying, a lot of good talk. However, my constituents are not happy,” he said.