Lake Hallie board to consider spring referendum

Nov. 26—LAKE HALLIE — The Lake Hallie Village Board could be asking voters to support a referendum to pay for road repairs and pay off some growing debt.

The referendum would also go toward increasing salaries of existing employees and paying off some debt the village has accrued due to the town of Wheaton leaving the Chippewa Fire District.

The board will meet Tuesday to discuss with the village attorney on whether to approve its intent to file a referendum question, which would appear on the April 2023 ballot. The filing deadline for it to go to voters is Jan. 24. State-imposed levy limits on municipalities have made it difficult for local governments to add staff or increase funding unless they ask the public for a referendum, board members explained.

"It comes down to economics 101," said Village Chairman Gary Spilde. "When the state (through levy limits) ties us to a 2.33% increase, it really hurts. It's down to you just don't have any money left over for roads."

Village board member Pete Lehmann said he supports the referendum. He noted that village residents approved funding for the new $4.5 million municipal building in 2012, then approved another referendum in November 2016 that called for $85,000 annually to pay for adding a detective position in the Police Department. He added that the municipal building will be paid off in about two years and that referendum will expire.

"We're just about done with that one," Lehmann said Friday. "We want to close that one out, and start looking at the next one."

Lehmann said the board still needs to decide on the final amount of the new referendum, which like the one for the detective position, would have no sunset date.

"We don't have the hard dollar amount yet," he said.

Spilde agreed, saying that will be the key issue discussed at the meeting Tuesday.

"That's to be defined," Spilde said of the size of the referendum. "I think all five board members have a number in mind."

Lehmann is confident the public will understand the reasons behind the request.

"People are going to recognize the need, with the budgeting (shortfall) when Wheaton left the Fire District," he said. "We've been borrowing more money to get through the year. We want to get to where the village is in good position for the future. This is the only way we can get caught up, with Wheaton leaving."

Spilde said the biggest issue with the Fire District is they have $250,000 due in debt for past fire truck and equipment purchases.

"In order to keep decent equipment at all four stations (in the Chippewa Fire District), we went to this borrowing plan," Spilde explained.

Lehmann said there are now more than 90 miles of roads in the village, and the budget doesn't have enough money for upkeep on them.

"It's not any particular road (that needs repairs)," Lehmann said. "It's just good management to keep up with everything."

The board meets at 5:30 p.m. at the Lake Hallie Municipal Building, 13136 30th Ave.