From Mayor Nickels:

I want to share with you a very startling projection for Manitowoc County that was just published in “The Business News” which is a business magazine for Northeast Wisconsin. Most of our local businesses receive this publication.

As you can see attached (I also listed it below in case you cannot open the attachment), Manitowoc County is projected to have the highest decrease in population between 2016 and 2040 (negative 2,484 people). The largest population increase is in Brown County (positive 54,423 people).

As you may recall, Manitowoc County was recently the #1 county in the entire State of Wisconsin for population loss (based off percentage).

Those who say we are doing “just fine” clearly are not worried about this terrifying trend or other trends and it is clear that our economic development strategies need to be more than just holding the line on taxes.

Couple the population loss (which means tax revenue loss for our infrastructure and services we provide), with:

    • 9% of the county’s bridges are structurally deficient:
    • 28 of them, only 6 of which are the county’s responsibility, the remainder are towns/villages/cities responsibility
    • 14.4 miles of highways should be paved each year and Manitowoc County is only averaging 5.3 miles
    • 13% decrease in the tax levy (over a 10 year period)
    • 9% decrease in general transportation aids from the state (over a 10 year period)
    • The price per ton of Asphalt Oil increased 288% (over a 10 year period)
    • Manitowoc County’s undesignated reserves have crippled over the years:
    • 2006: $7,275,684
    • 2016: $225,284
    • Manitowoc County borrowing (going into debt) $1.7 million for road work/CCTV system – the first time Manitowoc County has borrowed for road work in a very long time (meaning the 5-year plan now requires going into debt to fund).

    The discussion around increasing the sales tax by 0.5% is not robbing peter to pay paul. It is not a cash grab. The county’s recurring five-year plan dealing with maintenance and rehabilitation is not adequate and it will clearly only become worse if the population trends decrease and increased costs of road repair continue.

    Increasing the sales tax by 0.5% is not a magic bullet to change the population trend. What it will do is allow us to, at least, keep pace with our surrounding counties who are using those dollars for infrastructure improvements, quality of life enhancements, and economic development. Those communities are also utilizing TIF in their downtown, which is why (for example), the City of Manitowoc created a TIF District for downtown which has already seen a benefit (Briess Malting, the former Anheuser Busch facility, will be growing it’s facility with a $17 million dollar investment, $1.6 million of TIF dollars, because we were in competition with Wyoming). Manitowoc County (the representative on the TIF Joint Review Board) voted against creating that TIF District.

    The 2 counties that are projected to see the largest increase in population between 2016 and 2040 are Calumet and Brown. Both counties just enacted the 0.5% sales tax increase in 2017. They will have dollars (and even more with an increased population) to put into their roads, bridges, trails, parks, quality of life, and attracting new businesses to their communities.

    Manitowoc County will not. It is that simple. We will continue to fall behind.

    Additionally, please keep in mind when people talk about $6 million out of the hands of the hardworking people in Manitowoc County, that it can be estimated that at least 25% of the sales tax generated comes from non-residents. That is $1,500,000 generated from non-Manitowoc County residents (just like we pay in almost every other county when we visit). And yes, it will be an increase to our citizens, but that is how government provides these services to them. It is our responsibility to give them decent roads, and parks, and a good quality of life. It costs money to do that. Clearly other counties, who are anticipating higher populations over the next 20+ years, are utilizing the additional 0.5% sales tax generated for needed things in their communities. To continue to grow their communities. Their citizens are benefitting from this increase to the sales tax, and ours would also.

    I know it has been said there is “no plan” for the 0.5% sales tax. I am encouraged that the Finance Committee continues to meet to develop a plan. I trust the members of the County Board will create a plan that is beneficial to the citizens of Manitowoc County.

    We will continue to fall behind our neighbors if we do not realize that we need additional dollars for infrastructure, bridges, quality of life and economic development. Businesses will move to communities that are growing and that are investing in their communities, and that means much more than just a 5-year maintenance plan or holding the line on taxes.

    I strongly encourage you to support the increase to our county sales tax.

    Thank you.

2016 Population
Percent Increase
/ Decrease
Numeric Increase / Decrease
Calumet County
+ 24.27%
+ 12,541
Brown County
+ 21.10%
+ 54,423
Outagamie County
+ 18.05%
+ 32,925
Oconto County
+ 17.78%
+ 6,790
Winnebago County
+ 14.26%
+ 24,098
Shawano County
+ 9.93%
+ 4,051
Sheboygan County
+ 8.79%
+ 10,110
Fond du Lac County
+ 6.74%
+ 6,960
Kewaunee County
+ 3.63%
+ 752
Marinette County
+ 32
Manitowoc County
Door County

Bob Ziegelbauer's reply to the letter from the Mayor, to the Manitowoc County Board of Supervisors:

They can taste the money! I’ve heard the clamoring about the County Sales Tax from City Hall, but little talk about their own problems. It’s amazing to me that over the past several years, the City has willingly cut 40% from their road budget!!!

But with the shiny allure a NEW TAX (read: New Money to Spend), all of a sudden they want us to believe they have newfound focus on roads and bridges, despite almost completely ignoring their upkeep and repair for the past half-decade. How is it that the city streets are “going to heck”, but they’ve got plenty of money to spend on particular pet projects and upfront cash grants for a chosen few?

Actions speak louder than words. Maybe re-looking at their own priorities would go a long way at City Hall. Leadership is not about taking and spending more money, it’s about priorities and modernization.

“Holding the line on taxes” is a good thing. It forces modernization and disciplined decision making, and makes you concentrate on the expenditures you have and making them more efficient and effective.

A case in point is health insurance. We at the County have made great progress in our health care coverage. In the last five years we have gotten this down to about $10,000 per employee, a considerable cost but a good benefit for our employees. We’re proud of our quality health insurance.

Let’s look at the City’s. I’m told that City’s health insurance costs are much higher, about $14,000 per employee; that’s 40% higher than ours! If they had the same cost per employee as we do, City Hall could have saved nearly $1,100,000 PER YEAR. Think of all the asphalt you could buy with that money. This is just one example. It’s so easy to waste money when City Hall thinks there’s a never-ending supply.

Bob Ziegelbauer
Manitowoc County Executive