Why is the City of Beloit so concerned about the Town of Beloit's actions? The City is advocating for regional cooperation in the hopes of benefiting the entire area, including Town residents.
Under state law, the impacts to the greater region are a key consideration, and the City believes negative repercussions for the region outweigh any benefits the Town hopes to achieve by becoming a village. The City has serious concerns about the adverse and irreversible effects incorporation would have on the entire region.
THE TOWN seeks a financial windfall from Alliant Energy's expansion; should the Town become a village, it would receive the lion's share of utility aid at the expense of all Rock County residents. Currently, the Town and the County share utility aid revenue, with Rock County's 161,000 residents receiving 2/3 of every dollar and the Town of Beloit's 7,000 residents receiving 1/3. If the Town incorporates, the funding percentages will flip, with the small population of the proposed village receiving twice as much as the amount shared among the other 154,000 County residents. Surely those funds would be better used to benefit all of Rock County rather than just the proposed Village.
The change in the utility aid formula means that incorporation will impair Rock County's ability to provide shared services, including those that tackle countywide health and safety concerns. The Rock County Board of Supervisors agrees with the City. That is why they voted unanimously to oppose the Town's incorporation.
MORE than just utility aid revenues would be adversely impacted. Town leadership has openly discussed the Town's financial hardships while seeking more independence. What will happen if the Town does not get the windfall it seeks?
Most governmental partnerships, shared services, and formal collaborations arise because at least one party is financially unable to provide services on its own. Such collaborations require entities to work together, eliminating duplication of services, decreasing costs of service delivery, and advancing regional economic development opportunities. While the Town focuses on its "independence," the City is dedicated to supporting neighboring communities - including through mutual aid calls, such as Thursday's motor vehicle accident involving injuries and a structure fire on Wisconsin Avenue in the Town on Friday.
When boundary agreement negotiations began, the Town's police chief position was vacant. The City proposed creating a new joint Police and Fire Commission, which would inevitably reduce costs for all taxpayers. But the Town declined even to discuss such an opportunity.
THIS example is not an anomaly. The Town is uninterested in regional synergy and prefers to go it alone. This is further evidenced by the Town's withdrawal from the Greater Beloit Chamber of Commerce and Greater Beloit Economic Development Corporation. The Town's approach prevents better governmental services through regional cooperation. Such cooperation saves money. And rejecting cooperation wastes money. Consider the Town's recent efforts to build a "regional law enforcement training center" with a shooting range. Beloit and Janesville already share a shooting range, and another one in the region would waste taxpayer dollars. Yet the Town has neglected to communicate with Beloit and Janesville, instead pushing ahead on its own.
The Town also claims incorporation is necessary to prevent future annexations into the City. In fact, only eight properties have annexed into the City since 2000 - all at the owner's request because the City provides better services. The City does not - and cannot - annex property absent a request from a property owner.
Incorporation is not necessary to protect Town residents, and would, in fact, leave some facing an uncertain future. Not all current Town residents are included in the proposed incorporation area. Those residents left behind in the "remnant town" would live in yet another fragmented government entity.
ANY effort to create separation and division that negatively impacts the entire region is simply unacceptable. The City remains hopeful that our proposed mediation with the Town will allow us to find a win-win solution to benefit the entire Greater Beloit community. Our two communities deserve, at the very least, a productive, open-minded conversation that could result in cost savings while providing higher levels of service to residents in the City and the Town.
Our goal is, and always has been, to facilitate strong regional cooperation that will positively benefit all residents and businesses in the Greater Beloit area.
Lori S. Curtis Luther is Beloit's city manager.