Beaver Dam Revisiting Debt Cap Policy

(Beaver Dam) The Beaver Dam Common Council is going to be taking a closer look at its debt cap policy. Enacted in 2010 and championed by then-Common Council President Jon Litscher, the policy has limited borrowing in any one year to $1.6-million dollars, though it started to be adjusted for inflation last year. If elected officials currently want to exceed the cap, it requires a three-quarter vote of the council for approval, or eleven of 14 elected officials.

Alderman Mick Fischer requested the agenda item after being presented with a borrowing plan next year totaling as much as $3-million dollars for streets, parks, buildings and equipment. Fischer’s motion, which would have increased the borrowing cap to $2-million dollars, failed on an eight-to-five vote.

A subsequent motion by Administrative Committee Chair Kara Nelson to scrap the entire debt cap policy was withdrawn after council discussion. The consensus was to have Nelson and the city finance director draft a new policy. Nelson says she would like to see a policy that regulates borrowing based more on debt capacity and less on a fixed dollar amount.

“I think a hard number in the past has led us to where we are now where we’ve just been kicking the can down the road,” Nelson says, “and if we continue to do that in five years’ time we’re just going to be playing catch-up again just as we are now. We need to take into account our borrowing capacity, the future goals of our community, road projects and the overall health of our budget over the next – more than just this year – the next five years and ten years while also keeping in mind that the decisions we make do ultimately effect the taxpayers.”

The proposed changes are expected to come before the city’s Administrative Committee next month.