Mayor Gives State of the City Speech

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MTT News Desk's picture
By: 
Matt Geiger
Mayor Kurt Sonnentag gives his State of the City Address Thursday at the Marriott in Middleton.

Much of this year’s State of the City Address was similar to what was presented in recent years: the mayor touched on property values, development, employment, sustainability, taxes, public safety and growth.

Some wasn’t: this was the first time a member of the state legislature made an impromptu appearance to let the audience know local schools were closed due to a nasty ice storm. (It was Rep. Dianne Hesselbein.) 

On the surface it was a minor change, but perhaps the most significant aspect of Mayor Kurt Sonnentag’s speech Thursday morning at the Marriott was that he altered the way he presented information about the local tax rate – opting to delve deeper into the data in order to preemptively address accusations the city’s low tax rate is merely the result of high property values. 

Sonnentag said the city has the lowest tax rate among cities (and some villages) in Dane County. While in past years he has used the mill rate to illustrate his point, on Thursday Sonnentag factored property values into the equation, showing tax bills for Middleton residents are second lowest, after Stoughton, even when adjusted to reflect home values.

Sonnentag told those gathered at the meeting, which doubled as the Middleton Chamber of Commerce’s monthly “Get Moving Middleton” event, that the city is near pre-recession levels of building permit activity. He used the speech to jest about what he called “a golden opportunity” – both for the city to further enhance quality of life, and for those present to “play hooky” for a couple hours to hear his address. 

Sonnentag said local property values rose 2.2 percent in 2012, bringing the municipality's land worth back up to $2.7 billion, where it stood in 2007.

He also pointed out that crime is down, with the rate in 2012 at its lowest point in more than a decade, according to the FBI Index.

Sonnentag stressed the fact that Middleton is a net importer of employees, attracting an estimated 16,000 daily workers while 8,000 residents who live in the Good Neighbor City commute to work elsewhere. “Our employment base here is wonderful,” he commented.

Sonnentag touted the use of Tax Increment Financing, which the city has used to bring some businesses here from neighboring communities and to encourage others to expand extant facilities.

New developments in Middleton include Spectrum Brands' corporate headquarters, the Heritage Senior Campus, and new housing on Amherst Road.

Sonnentag went on to say downtown Middleton is poised for further redevelopment with the impending $4.3 million transformation of Terrace Avenue and plans to wrap up a downtown parking study later this month. “We know we have a parking issue downtown,” he stated.

Sonnentag also highlighted an increase in recycling, a planned ADA accessible pier at Graber Pond in the works, and a sustained increase in the number of cardiac arrest patients whose lives are saved by a second paramedic ambulance.

Sonnentag didn't exclusively cheerlead. The mayor acknowledged a challenge currently faced by the city: debt for Pleasant View Golf Course. While the course benefited from warmer weather in October and November of 2012, and finished the year with an operating profit of $454,757, Pleasant View remains saddled by debt from the initial purchase of the land and upgrades to its facilities.

(The city council on Tuesday night reviewed a proposal to sell some golf course land to a developer, while a second sale of peripheral land at Pleasant View will likely be unveiled to the public in the coming weeks.)

Sonnentag also said the city is working to come up with a stable revenue source to pay for storm water maintenance. That source will likely be a new utility charged to citizens. 

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