County clerk calls commuter rail tax referendums a 'huge waste' of money

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

From an article by Mathew DeFour in The Capital Times:

Opponents of Dane County commuter rail are urging municipalities to place an advisory sales tax referendum on their November ballots, but County Clerk Bob Ohlsen is warning that would be a "huge waste" of taxpayer dollars.

County Board Sup. Eileen Bruskewitz, of Waunakee, said she would urge her village board to put the question to local voters because the County Board won't likely approve a proposal she supports that would put the question to all county voters.

The recently created Regional Transit Authority has said it will hold an advisory referendum within its boundaries before imposing a half-cent sales tax for local transit. But it's unlikely the referendum will be held this November because Ohlsen said his office won't be ready to divide ballots in municipalities split by the RTA boundary.

"We need to guarantee some way that the public is going to have a chance to vote on whether a sales tax should be used on commuter rail," Bruskewitz said. "The RTA is moving forward on that assumption. Before they get too far ahead, it's time to give them a reality check."

Ohlsen sent a memo to local clerks Tuesday reminding them that his office charges a local government $300 per polling place and about five cents per ballot for local referenda. Besides school referendums, for which the clerk charges school districts, local referendums aren't held very often, he said.

"Should your municipality vote to put it on, please (be) aware that it isn't going to make one bit of difference," Ohlsen wrote. "The RTA commission will call for a referendum at some point and only the people in the RTA district will be allowed to vote."