Not just about Town of Beloit

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Outspoken county leader wants residents to see a bigger picture.

THIS THURSDAY, supervisors on the Rock County Board will be asked to go on record opposing the Town of Beloit's efforts to incorporate into the Village of Riverside.

County Board Chairman Russ Podzilni minced few words in explaining why he wants his colleagues to oppose Town of Beloit efforts. The township, he said, is being "selfish."

"The Town of Beloit is in it for the money," was Podzilni's blunt assessment.

HERE'S WHAT PODZILNI is talking about. The Alliant Energy plant pays a substantial amount of money in public utility shared revenues, and likely will pay even more in coming years as new facilities are completed. Presently, the money is divided with the county receiving two-thirds and the Town of Beloit, where the power plant is located, receiving one-third.

If incorporation takes place, that distribution formula will flip. The Town of Beloit will receive two-thirds, Rock County will receive one-third.

Podzilni says the funds allow the county to provide services to its 160,000-plus residents, ranging from sheriff's functions, the district attorney's office, the county courts, health and human services and more. The county, he says, would not be able to increase its tax collections to make up for the losses because of state-imposed levy limits.

Funneling the money - potentially, millions of dollars - to serve the Town of Beloit's 7,000 residents instead of the county's 160,000-plus residents, would harm the majority, he argues.

THAT'S A CONSIDERATION deserving debate by the county board, and we have no criticism of Podzilni for bringing it before supervisors. Their job is to represent all residents of Rock County.

But we're also mindful of another comment by Podzilni in discussing the situation. He said, "Logically, (the town) would incorporate into the City of Beloit, which the city has been trying to do for years. It makes more sense for the county to disperse the larger portion of the funds over the entire county rather than just to 7,000 people."

For more years than we can count, the Beloit Daily News has argued a similar point. It goes like this: A bird flying over this place sees one large community, from the urbanized businesses and residences to the north in the Town of Beloit to the southern edges of South Beloit. In fact, just beyond, are the growing urban areas of Rockton and Roscoe. It's been called a 10-mile city, a marketplace undeniably linked together for the future.

Not much can be done about the jurisdictional splits related to the Wisconsin-Illinois state line. Even so, more and more cross-border cooperation has been occurring, best illustrated by the Beloit 2020 partnership with the City of South Beloit to develop the Nature at the Confluence complex and related projects. The spirit of one community, one future has been largely embraced.

WITH THE TOWN OF BELOIT, though, both history and the current situation suggest something more divisive. There have been reasons for that, and over the long term fault has flowed both ways. The net result has been a debilitating division that, at times, looks a lot like one community in conflict with itself.

And now, plenty of people fear incorporation would amount to a final divorce.

Our perspective has not changed, over decades of commenting on the issue. The city and town have much more in common than whatever may divide them. The success or failure of the entire community is inextricably tied together, like it or not. The reasons to wear the same-color jersey far exceed any cause for separation.

At this juncture, no one can predict where the Town of Beloit's incorporation effort will end. Maybe it will be approved at higher levels, including state government. Maybe it will go to referendum. Maybe it will win or lose.

Rock County Board consideration is a reminder this issue is not just about the 7,000 residents of the town. The stakes are larger. All involved need to think about that.

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