Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

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Looking ahead to 2012 in Linn, Geneva
How economy will affect next year’s likely top stories

by Steve Targo

January 05, 2012

We should be used to living in a dismal economy by now.

The phrase "do more with less" is a part of every government official's lexicon.

The up side is this should be nothing new to officials in smaller communities such as the towns of Geneva and Linn.

The down side is what happens when small municipal budgets become smaller. This figures into the following look at how the New Year will unfold.

More criticism

Are local officials really spending taxpayer dollars wisely? Did they do all they could last fall to ensure a budget that would be as lean as possible in 2012?

That's always the criticism of officials in every branch of government, regardless of the economic state.

However, as taxpayers have learned to get by on the bare minimum, the number of people wondering if the same is true of their elected officials will continue to increase this year. There may not be a demonstration on the scale of Occupy Wall Street, but expect more complaints, more letters and more talk about what the dollar means in 2012.

As these criticisms are made more passionately than in the past, board members will remind people they have scaled back budgets in efforts to maintain or avoid sizable tax rate increases for residents. They likely will remind them financial aid from the state has decreased.

What goes along with tighter budgets are inabilities to perform work some people may deem necessary to sustain their quality of life. In other words, potholes may not be filled in for yet another year, or there once again won't be enough manpower to have police run speed patrols in their neighborhood as much as residents would like. The weeds alongside the road may grow longer than in the past.

Town officials also will remind people their local government is only one taxing entity asking taxpayers for money.

Portions of a taxpayer's bill go toward their town, the state, Walworth County, Gateway Technical College and their local public school district. How much goes to each taxing body typically is broken down by percent on every tax bill.

Which means it won't just be the town boards people criticize. Local school district officials also will face more criticism.

Reek will do … something

This will make it anyone's guess as to how Reek School officials solve their dilemma, which was the biggest story of 2011.

Faced with a need to repair the structural deficiencies of their building, the Reek School Board failed twice in its effort to receive approval for a $3.9 million repair/renovation project last year. The results of a recent survey are expected to guide the board in coming up with a new solution.

Although according to Reek Administrator Joe Zirngibl, one of the options people can express in this survey is for the board to do nothing, voters, if anything, demonstrated enough passion to signify that won't be what the majority of respondents choose.

As the brick continues to fall apart and the windows leak, expect board members to discuss either an even more scaled-back renovation project or building a new school.

If it's a new building, ground likely won't break until 2013, at the earliest. Perhaps by then the economy will improve.

Development

Maybe not every business is going to be a good fit in the towns of Geneva and Linn, but there is one thing local government can do about the economy which may be further explored in the New Year — improve the job market by allowing the types of development which would increase job opportunities.

This can be controversial depending on the development. But if more projects such as the rehabilitation facility on Highway H in Geneva Township or the senior living facility at the Lodge of Geneva Ridge are proposed, perhaps that's a sign things may improve. People who may make such proposals would better serve themselves and their communities by getting to know those who live near their project. That's one of the lessons to be learned from the failed attempt by The Pier in Linn Township to expand its operation.

Hearts will grow

As the financial outlook as a whole grows dim, people will continue to become more generous. The example set in 2011 by Sal Dimiceli of The Time Is Now, which has the WC Food Pantry in Geneva Township, will continue to inspire future philanthropists and do-gooders.

Also, expect the recent effort conducted by town of Geneva employees which benefited some area families last Thanksgiving and Christmas not to go unnoticed. As belts tighten, people will do what they can to help each other.