More than 100 Town of Lisbon residents voiced their concerns Tuesday regarding a with the Village of Sussex during an informational meeting held by town leader.
After Town Chairman Matt Gehrke made a 90-minute presentation that made a case for moving forward with exploring a possible merger, several residents indicated their .
"When you look at (consolidation) with Sussex, the tax base goes up, their taxes go down; my taxes go up. It doesn't compute," said town resident Dennis Manthy. "I've lived here for 35 years and the Town of Lisbon is the Town of Lisbon."
Gehrke noted the current the property tax rate in Lisbon is $3.09 per $1,000 of assessed value. It would increase to about $3.50 per $1,000 if assessed value if the town consolidated with Sussex. He said any increase due to consolidation would be phased in over 10 years.
Gehrke repeatedly told the audience that consolidation would be a dead issue if the town residents vote against it during an Aug. 14 advisory referendum.
"Most of us want to keep things just the way they are ... but if we don't consolidate, the Lisbon we see here today will not be the Lisbon you see in future years," Gehrke said.
The case for consolidation
Part of the impetus behind Lisbon's need to merge with the is its diminishing tax base due to past and possible future annexation, according to Gehrke.
Another reason to consolidate with Sussex is law enforcement coverage. Currently, the Town of Lisbon has an officer on duty for 16 hours a day. Between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. the town relies on police departments from surrounding municipalities to respond.
"Consolidation offers economies of scale and many increased efficiencies," Gehrke said. "We realize this is an emotional topic for many people ... a very good case can be made that (consolidation) is the best option, if you are able to remove the emotion."
Supervisor says no need for merger
Supervisor Dan Fisher, who is opposed to consolidation, had a flier distributed to attendees before the meeting.
The two-sided yellow handout said Lisbon currently has about $8.5 million in debt while Sussex has about $20 million in debt. After Lisbon's debt is paid off, its residents would be on the hook for Sussex's remaining debt.
Fisher also said mergers are expensive, using as an example the city and village of Pewaukee spending $286,000 for a study before a merger between the two municipalities failed.
"The sky is not falling," the flier said. "The Town of Lisbon is still a great community that provides services and the lifestyle that our residents expect and enjoy. Let's keep it that way."
Another factor driving the opposition to consolidation is the possibility that Lisbon property owners would be eventually be forced to hook up to sewer and water utilities. According to Town of Lisbon Supervisor Ryan Lippert, Sussex has indicated sewer and water hook-ups currently cost property owners $6,950.
Another forum will be held July 31. If the advisory referendum passes, a binding referendum will be held in approximately in a year.