Whitewater Common Council Unanimously Opposes Walker’s Budget

The fear of losing culture, economic stability and the city’s livelihood surges through the community of Whitewater as they look ahead at the effects of Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed budget.

The estimated proposed cuts of $300 million to University of Wisconsin system would mean a $6.4 to $8 million cut to the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater in the 2015-2017 biennium. This proposed cut has led to anxiety in Whitewater because a loss of funding won’t only effect the university.

The city of Whitewater unanimously approved the support of UW-Whitewater’s opposition to the proposed state budget cuts.

Councilmember Stephanie Abbott realizes that the universities cannot force the government to change the budget, but she hopes that they can find “a better way.”

“I do share the fear of a lot of people up here that this would be a major hit, not only to the university, but also to our city and to all of the people who choose to live here,” Abbott said. “I’ve been part of Gov. Walker’s party most of my life…but I also consider myself more Whitewater than anything else. Whitewater is the reason that I’m able to stand up in front of you and talk to you tonight.”

Councilmember Brienne Diebolt-Brown is worried that UW-Whitewater will lose its valuable professors because these cuts mean a loss of sabbatical, sick-leave roll over and tenure. She believes that without these benefits, professors will go to places that “actually respect education.”

While the budget proposes a budget cut, Clapper said that UW-Whitewater could make up for the budget cuts by increasing out of state tuition. This would theoretically balance out the loss of state funding and the in-state tuition freeze, however, a rise in out-of-state tuition could drive away out of state students.

According to Clapper, Walker’s budget would have a lesser impact on the city’s budget. Primarily, Whitewater would lose funding for parks, trails and natural resources and K-12 education and see a change in property assessments.

Clapper, while emphasizing that the overall cuts wouldn’t be significant, showed concern about the budget’s effects on the Stewardship Grant Moratorium. The purchase of land resources would be put on hold under Walker’s budget.

The K-12 Whitewater Unified School District system would see a $150 per pupil “categorical aid” cut. In total, the cut would be $290,000 for the 2015-2016 school year.

The responsibility and process of property assessments would transition to the counties of Wisconsin. The budget begins the change in 2016 and be completed by 2017. The primary concern with the switch is the time line, which, according to Clapper, may be too aggressive.

Additionally, on Tuesday the Whitewater Common Council approved the adoption of the League of Wisconsin Municipalities Partnership for Prosperity Agenda. The partnership agenda proposes levy limits that reflect the cost of living, evaluate the way that new construction is calculated into levy limits, look into more sustainable ways to fund transportation in the future and improve shared revenue through job creation and economic development.

Other matters from Tuesday’s meeting:

  • Agreed to allow Wisconsin Independent Network (WIN) to utilize city-owned conduit along Main Street for fiber-optic cable. The agreement states that WIN would be responsible for removing the conduit at the city’s request and absolves the city from liability of damages.
  • Approved a $20,000 contract with Stand Associates for the replacement of the Downtown Armory ramp and stairs in order to be compliant with Americans with Disabilities Act requirements.  The estimated project cost is $100,000.
  •  Permitted the Memorandum of Understanding between the City of Whitewater and UW-Whitewater Police. In case of an emergency, this agreement allows campus police to use off campus locations.