What are the biggest challenges facing the Village and what changes would you attempt to address them?
Mike Barth - As the Chairman of the Finance and Administration Committee, I can say without any doubt that the biggest challenge facing the Village today is inflation. The cost of everything the Village does is going up, from the cost of energy, to the cost of salt, to wages. At the same time, the Village is subject to levy limits, so we are not able to tax our way out of inflationary problems, nor would we want to. I am incredibly proud of the fact that the Village tax levy went up only 1.1% in 2022. Village residents may have faced higher tax bills, but that is because the other taxing entities on their property tax bills did not abide by the fiscal restraint that Bayside did.
Bayside has won numerous awards for our budgets and fiscal prowess. In my 18 years as a Trustee, I have seen first hand the efforts the Board has gone through to maintain a high level of service while keeping taxes level. In addition to learning from the mistakes of other municipalities, we have worked very hard to find new ways to bring in revenue and save money. We have installed solar panels at Village Hall. We are converting our BPD fleet to hybrid vehicles to combat higher fuel costs. We have written and won hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants. And we have pursued consolidation of the fire department, Municipal Court services, Northshore IT services, and Northshore dispatch services, all of which have saved the Village a significant sum in operating costs.
Liz Levins - With State revenue limits and the expiration of pandemic property tax relief, Bayside (and associated taxing units) can expect a serious revenue shortfall in the future. As is, the only way schools, 47% of our taxes, can increase their revenue is by referendum, which will become more prevalent.
Mark McCormick - I would believe the biggest challenges the Village of Bayside is facing in the future are the taxes that will increase significantly if the referendums for the schools are approved. I would have hoped before the Village approved the TIF for the Cobalt Group giving them a Bayside Village Tax break for the next 20+ years, they would have asked the residents what they wanted to see on the property being developed north of Brown Deer Rd & West of Port Washington Rd. & asked the developer to fund the entire project with investments & not our local tax dollars. I believe the current board was not transparent with the entire village. My goal once elected to the Bayside board is to bring a level of transparency that has not been seen in the past few years. I would also look at what the Village is paying our current Village administration & see if we could make adjustments with the staff we currently have in place. I believe we need to look to work with the other nearby municipalities to see if we can combine our cost on future administrations.
Josh Roling – The combination of state-imposed levy limits and reductions in state aid put significant pressure on the Village to do more with less tax revenue. In the most recent budget, for example, the overall property tax levy was increased by 1.1%, compared to an inflation rate of approximately 7%. These limitations require Village Trustees and Village staff to be resourceful and creative in the budgeting process and to identify the areas where targeted investment will provide the greatest return in the future.
As a Village Trustee, I would continue to encourage staff to diversify the revenue sources available to the Village, including by pursing federal and state aid and grant funds. These funds can help to offset the costs of important infrastructure investments, such as improvements to the stormwater system to address flooding issues.
I also support responsible investment in energy conservation and sustainability initiatives. For example, in 2021, the Village installed a solar array on the roof of the new Department of Public Works building to provide electricity for the entirety of Village Hall. Since being placed in service in 2021, the solar array has produced 73.2 Mega Watt Hours of electricity and has saved 113,327.1 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions. The Police Department also replaced one of their older squad cars with a new hybrid squad car that reduces emissions and saves a significant amount money on fuel, particularly because of the low speed limits within the Village and long idle times of the vehicles.
How would you specifically try to improve transparency on issues important to the village?
Mike Barth - Over my 18 years as a Village Trustee, I have witnessed the Village become incredibly transparent. First and foremost, the Village of Bayside utilizes a community newsletter that reaches over two-thirds of the Village via email. That newsletter is sent out weekly and includes a lot of relevant information to Village citizens, from community events, to Village meeting dates, to various goings on in the Village.
The Village website is also a great resource for people. The website is updated regularly and the Village staff does a great job of posting information and documents that may be of interest to people.
As a small community, our elected officials and staff are extremely accessible. People can call us, email us, or talk to us on the street or at Sendik’s. The Trustees are extremely friendly, informed, and happy to chat.
Lastly, as Village Hall gets renovated, there is going to be added electronic resources added that will make Village meetings more accessible. The Village has worked with a contractor to set up a quality system at a reasonable budget.
Liz Levins - The Village issues a newsletter by email and in a printed mailing. It is ludicrously simple to correct the lack of transparency that has occurred. Feature the schedule of important public meeting in the email edition, and print the dates of all meetings in the monthly print piece.
Mark McCormick - We have started a Bayside Association which is FREE to any residents who would be willing to receive an email quarterly sharing all information that this Village Board currently doesn’t do. They have their monthly meetings, but they only place those minutes on the village website. I would insure we have those minutes & any conversations around upcoming projects or expenses they want to pass, would to be sent out so residents of Bayside could be better informed. It’s time for a change on this board.
Josh Roling – The Village of Bayside is run in a very transparent manner. A large proportion of the Village of Bayside is subscribed to the Bayside Buzz, the Village’s weekly newsletter sent via email. During my time on the Village Board, I have encouraged the Village staff to improve the Bayside Buzz by making sure that the most important information and materials are highlighted at the top of the email.
I have also encouraged citizens to visit the Village website for materials related to Village meetings. The exact same meeting agendas and packets that the Trustees will use to prepare for Board meetings are available to the public on the Village website. Village staff have also done a tremendous job of posting important materials onto the Village website for public review. Trustees and Village staff have made a concerted effort to be available to answer questions and discuss concerns both in person and via email.
What experience do you have that makes you a good fit for this office?
Mike Barth - Despite what some have inferred, the Bayside Board of Trustees has turned over dramatically in the last few years. With 18 years of experience on the Board, I have 4-times the experience of the next most senior trustee. That institutional knowledge and history is critical as the Village evolves. Knowing where we came from is important in shaping where we go without repeating errors.
At US Bank, I work in Risk Management. At Congregation Emanu-El, I am the chair of the Investment Committee. That experience in the private sector has helped me tremendously in the public sector, particularly as the Chairman of the Finance and Administration Committee since 2010, where I oversee the Village’s budget and spending. Perhaps more so than any other Trustee, I have worked diligently to keep taxes down and spending in check. Over the last 10 years, taxes have gone up about 6.5% while the Cost of Living has gone up almost 20% over the same period.
To me, nothing is more important at the municipal level than fiscal responsibility, and I have been a strong proponent of that responsibility during my time on the Board. It’s easy to shout from the sidelines, but I have built a strong record of performance during some very difficult and challenging times.
Liz Levins - As a small business owner, manager, and realtor, I provided real value to my clients, tenants and investors. I listened to their concerns, supervised employees, and issued contracts for goods and services. I will provide same type of responsiveness and value to Bayside residents.
Mark McCormick - I have been involved in the restaurant & grocery retail business for my entire career. I have experience in managing budgets & would be able to provide feedback to our board to ensure we are not spending dollars foolishly Like when the planted trees along Brown Deer Rd. that would not survive or allowing developers to come into our village without having the funds to pay for the entire project.
Josh Roling – Having served as a Village Trustee for the past year, including serving as the chair of the Public Works Committee for the past 10 months, I have gained valuable first-hand experience in how the Village functions and with the key issues facing the Village. As a real estate attorney at a large, national law firm, I also bring valuable experience in topics that are relevant to the Board, such as zoning, contracts, Development Agreements and Tax Increment Financing.
In addition to having relevant substantive experience, it is essential that a Trustee have the appropriate demeanor and the ability to work well with others. The Village faces significant challenges that will require Trustees and Village staff to work together to come up with creative solutions. A good Trustee can ask difficult questions and disagree with other members of the Board without resorting to personal attacks or name-calling. I have demonstrated an ability to work collaboratively with the other members of the Village Board and hope to build on the relationships that I have made to better serve the best interests of the Village.
When is it appropriate to use Tax Increment Financing to promote development in the Village and who benefits from it?
Mike Barth - Wisconsin statutes are very clear about when a Tax Incremental Financing opportunity is authorized. There must be a blighted, underdeveloped parcel where development would not occur but for a TIF. In Bayside, we had just such a situation on the northwest corner of Port Washington Road and Brown Deer Road. That corner had steadily deteriorated over time, which was particularly troubling given that it was a highly visible entryway into the Village.
It is important to remember that not every TIF is the same. Many TIFs can be structured poorly, but the leadership in Bayside was very astute. Led in no small part by Josh Roling and myself, we were able to negotiate a development agreement that required no upfront money and no loan from the municipality. In fact, the agreement that was ultimately executed required the developers to put in $20MM in capital before any money could be sought. From there, each tier of lending facilitated by Bayside would be keyed upon new development. The Village did not guarantee any of this lending whatsoever.
As a result of this structure, everyone won but no one more than Bayside and its residents. After decades of decay, the northwest corner of Port and Brown Deer will be transformed into an incredible area highlighted by the North Shore Library and grassy areas that will house farmers markets and events. What was once an embarrassment will be a source of pride for the residents of Bayside. And the taxpayers win because they will not be on the hook for one single penny of the TIF and not having to shoulder any new taxes as a result. No one should be fooled by the campaign of misinformation put out by the opponents of the development
Liz Levins - If a project qualifies and is well defined, a small TIF to provide infrastructure could be beneficial if the property will return additional tax dollars in a few years. It is never appropriate for a 4389 resident community to give $35 million in taxpayer funds to undefined project for 22 years.
Mark McCormick - It’s a disgrace what our taxpayers will have to endure over the next 20 years. This current board gave the developer a pass on paying taxes for the next 20+ years. I won’t let that happen again.
Josh Roling – The availability of Tax Increment Financing is governed by state statute. Assuming that the statutory prerequisites are met, TIF is a valuable tool that the Village can use to promote development in key areas that would not occur without Village support. In Bayside, the parcels located at the corner of Brown Deer Road and Port Washington Road are a good candidate for the use of TIF, as those parcels stand at one of the primary entrances to the Village and have long been largely vacant and under-utilized.
When the Board was presented with a proposal that would result in a vibrant and attractive mixed-use development on those parcels and would include a new home for the North Shore Library, I knew that it was a unique opportunity that would benefit the entire Village. By approving a new cooperation agreement for the North Shore Library, approving PUD zoning to allow for a coordinated mixed-use development, and creating TID #1, the Village Board took significant steps this year to make that development a reality.
Importantly, the TIF was structured not to require any borrowing or up-front payments by the Village. TIF payments are only after the developer achieves certain milestones and are only paid out of tax increment that is actually generated by the development. If the development does not generate increment, or takes too long to generate increment, the payment obligations will expire without any risk to the Village or to taxpayers in the Village.
What stipulations should be attached? What power does the Village Board have in deciding about Tax Increment Financing?
Mike Barth - When Bayside negotiated the Development Agreement with the developers for the northwest corner of Port Washington Road and Brown Deer Road, we included many stipulations. The developers had to add significant capital to the effort before Bayside would get involved at all. We wanted them to be well on the way to developing the property and financially vested in its success before we would help. The developers also had to find their own financing for the internal funding. Unlike other local projects where the municipality would front money, Bayside did no such thing. The developers had to find the sources of funding for this TIF, which is why I actually prefer the term “developer funded financing” because that is what it is. Lastly, it was important to Bayside that the funding be broken down into tiers rather than funded all at once. In doing so, the developers were incentivized to actually create increment (IE increase the tax base) as part of the project. Their success would beget additional success, which would ultimately mean a better development and larger tax base for Bayside.
Liz Levins - Village taxpayer money is at risk, so a detailed project plan, including architectural drawings and verifiable costs, should be required. An independent consultant must be retained to monitor the project as it proceeds. Incumbent trustees can, but have not required these taxpayer protections.
Mark McCormick - That all information moving forward needs to be looked at by an independent consulting group, not someone hired by the current board who had connections to the one they used. Disgraceful is the only way this current board has worked over the pass 2 years.
Josh Roling – The rationale behind TIF is to encourage development that would not otherwise occur without Village support. As a result, the Village must have an ability to review and approve the proposed plans to ensure that the development will provide the expected benefits to the Village. In Bayside, the PUD zoning that governs the parcels at the corner of Port Washington Road and Brown Deer Road requires the Developer to come back to the Board for approvals as to each building that will be built on the site. Additionally, as particular businesses start to populate the development, they will need to come before the Village Board for authorization. Ultimately, the Village has reserved a great deal of influence over how the development will come together.