What’s going to happen with Brokaw?

Brokaw-Aerial1

This week, the long-awaited report on the situation with the Village of Brokaw was released. Marathon County hired consultants from Schenck SC, a state-wide CPA firm and Phillips Borowski SC, a law firm that serves many Wisconsin local governments. With less than 300 residents, Brokaw ran into problems when Wausau Papers closed a large mill in the village, adversely impacting on the tax base while reducing the volumes for its water utility by 95 percent. The Village now has a total property tax rate of $44 per thousand dollars of assessed valuation; (the City of Wausau’s is just under $25, including all components), uncompetitive water rates and few prospects for growth under the present conditions. Worse yet, the money coming from sky-high property tax and water rates still falls far short of what is required to service the village’s debt and supply even modest municipal services to residents. Brokaw, as things stand, is unsustainable.

You can read the report here:

http://www.co.marathon.wi.us/Portals/0/Departments/CAD/Documents/Report_FinancialEconomicStudy-Brokaw.pdf

“The report includes two possible options for the Village of Brokaw to pursue to remedy its current financial issues. The first option would be to propose a sale and transfer of the water utility to the City of Wausau, along with an agreement to eventually consolidate with the City in the future, when borders become contiguous. Because consolidation with Wausau will require annexation of property now contained with townships, it is recommended that the Towns be a party to the agreement to provide for an orderly and systematic process. The second option would be to dissolve as a Village and transfer all assets and liabilities to the adjacent Towns of Texas and Maine.”

The county hired the consultants to provide the report so that there would be an objective third party to provide the facts to the parties involved. While we had a good idea of what options were likely to be laid out, it was not because the county had any particular agenda beyond recognizing that there is a problem and that at some point, it needs to be solved. That is the extent of the county’s agenda with this.

Looking ahead, the consultants suggested a cooperative planning process involving Brokaw, the Town of Maine, the Town of Texas and the City of Wausau to explore possible solutions. The county may end up being involved as a facilitator and there may be a role for the state, as well. It is unreasonable to expect Wausau or Marathon County taxpayers to bail out the village or the townships without offsetting economic benefits. That said, it is possible that benefits could be realized in light of the infrastructure and development potential that exists. There is also the matter of a Tax Increment District and whether that public financing scheme can continue under a change of jurisdiction between Brokaw and either the City of Wausau or the townships involved. It is possible that an exception to state law could be created to deal with this problem. What seems certain is that the problem will not solve itself and that any growth strategy will depend on creating a more favorable environment for development than what exists under the tax and water rates currently in place.

JR

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3 Responses to “What’s going to happen with Brokaw?”

  1. Well, Brokaw was a company town and now it’s not. It is too bad.
    I don’t see why it should be up to Wausau to fix it.
    Another reason I’m glad to live in Rothschild. Except that both municipalities are in Marathon County. So, will Brokaw’s problem become our problem?

  2. Can you explain why this should be or become a City of Wausau problem versus a problem for all of Mararthon County? It could spread the cost over a larger group and not raise Wausau’s taxes so much. I just don’t see any explanation as to why we need to pick up their problems. I also think when a company,such as the Mill,leaves a town in such distress they should be held financially responsible as well.

  3. Brokaw’s problem is exactly that: BROKAW’S problem. It COULD become a problem for residents of the towns of Texas and Maine in a dissolution scenario. It is a potential opportunity for Wausau, but not one that the city would take on in the context of bailing out Brokaw. Rather, it needs to make sense from the standpoint of creating economic opportunity. Marathon County is interested in seeing the issue solved, but it doesn’t make sense for the county to take over the issue or pay off the debt because that would not create a new economic opportunity for the county.

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