GENOA CITY — The village will borrow $1.5 million to address the repair and space needs at the village hall and police department.
But they’ll decide how to spend that money later, and according to some village officials, they may not spend all of it.
On Oct. 10, the board voted 5-2 to obtain a $1.5 million bond “for the expressed purpose of a village hall/police department,” Village Clerk-Treasurer Claudia Jurewicz said in an Oct. 16 email, “callable and paid back if not used for that purpose.”
Village President Bill Antti and Trustees Karen Bullock, Alan Cornue, Roger Cagann and Eric Boxer voted in favor of the motion by Cornue, seconded by Bullock. Trustees Ken Parker and Phil Traskaski voted against it.
Parker, in an Oct. 15 phone interview, and Traskaski, on the phone Monday, said this was the wrong way to handle the village hall issue.
“We’re already getting criticized for trying to do something with the village hall,” Parker said. “To me, this was just adding gasoline to the fire.”
“It just doesn’t look good at all, and it didn’t make our case to the residents,” Traskaski said
So why borrow the money without a board decision on how to address the village hall needs?
“Because we need a new one, or we need at least to do something with the one we have,” Antti said in a separate Oct. 15 phone interview.
He said the board has some idea how much needs to be spent. There was a village hall feasibility study, which indicates several solutions ranging in price from $10,000 to $1.44 million. Possible solutions include making repairs, upgrading and adding onto the current village hall at 715 Walworth St.; or building a new facility.
But the clock was ticking, said Antti. “The advantage is we have to borrow the money in November, so it will be part of the levy for next year.”
He said this also takes advantage of an improved financial forecast for Genoa City.
The village’s Tax Increment District (TID) will close at the end of the year. The TID — a tool to fund infrastructure improvements using property tax revenue — includes about 44 percent of the village’s taxable land.
Next year, all of the village’s property tax revenue will go to the general fund. Some officials, including Antti, have said this makes it an opportune time to fund a village hall project, whatever it may be.
That’s a question Antti said he hopes is answered next month. He said he hopes there will be a meeting — or meetings — on the subject in November.
“I think all the board members want to have some input,” said Antti.
Traskaski said he believes the board sent the wrong message to residents by borrowing the money first.
He doesn’t think taxpayers will believe the village won’t spend the entire $1.5 million on the village hall.
“If you tell people you’ve already got the money for it, they’ll assume you’ve already spent it,” Traskaski said.
He added that the board should have made its case to residents through community meetings, or even going door-to-door.
Parker also had similar concerns.
“I don’t want the people to think that, because we took out $1.5 million, that that’s what we’re going to spend,” he said. “To me, this was telling the village residents that, hey, they just took out $1.5 million, they’re going to spend $1.5 million. … To me, this was not the way to go about it.”
He questioned the mechanics of the loan.
Parker said he understands that the timing for the loan may be right, but no one at the board meeting could tell him if they would still have to pay the interest if the loan is paid off early.
Antti said that’s the idea.
“What we’re aiming to do, if we don’t use all the $1.5 million, we want to give it back right away so we don’t pay interest on it,” he said. “I don’t know exactly how that’s going to work out, but that’s the idea for the village hall.”
Even with the loan, Antti said the village’s tax rate should decrease by about 22 percent.
He said there is a rough estimate for what that rate will be, but did not provide it. “I don’t know if I’d want to publish a number yet because it will change,” Antti said.
But there was a budget workshop Thursday, Oct. 24.
A public hearing on the budget is set for Nov. 21.
The board approved taking out two $1.5-million loans Oct. 10, increasing the village’s overall debt by $3 million.
The board unanimously approved taking out a $1.5 million bond to fund “other capital projects,” Antti said.
These are street projects, and there appears to be a clearer idea on how much of it would be spent — all of it.
“I’m sure we have more streets that need repairing than $1.5 million would cover,” Antti said.
He said Brandon Foss, village engineer, and Todd Schiller, public works director, are evaluating Genoa City’s streets to determine which ones will make the list of those to be repaired.
“Everything should be up, other than county roads,” said Antti, adding that roads which were recently redone — such as Bonnie Lane, Joyce and Ann streets and Gregory Drive, also wouldn’t be considered.
The work should be done between 2014 and 2016, Antti said.
The capital project bond is separate from the village hall bond.
“It looks like an 18-year payoff for the road (bond) and a 10-year payoff for the village hall,” Antti said.
He said there were several village streets that need repairs, but the board put them off because of the TID tax burden.
“We didn’t want to add any more to that because we felt taxes were already too high,” said Antti. “Not that we wouldn’t like a big tax cut now, but in reality, you’ve got to keep things (village services) going.”