Janesville34.5°

Taxes are hot topic in Delavan's 1st District

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ANN MARIE AMES
March 22, 2010
— A newcomer to Delavan politics promises he won't vote for a tax increase if he's elected to the 1st District seat on the city council.

The incumbent candidate resents that statement, saying some increases are necessary to keep city services coming.


Gary Stebnitz, 1006 S. Second St., is challenging incumbent John Finley, 201 W. Washington St.


Stebnitz decided to take his first run at political office when he opened his tax bill this year and saw across-the-board increases.


"During these tough economic times, we need to focus on reducing spending and lowering taxes," Stebnitz said. "My opponent did vote for the tax increase. I wouldn't have."


The council must prioritize spending with lists of "needs" and "wants," he said.


Stebnitz listed the city-managed Delbrook Golf Course, which has been operating at a loss, as one place to address spending.


Finley said his vote to increase taxes was purposeful in order to add road repairs and two police officers to the city's 2010 budget. It's easy for someone such as Stebnitz who hasn't served on the council to promise tax cuts, Finley said.


"Residents expect street lights to light and fire department trucks to roll," Finley said.


The city council already works through the budget line by line to look for excess spending, Finley said.


"It's something we've already invented," Finley said. "It's not something he's teaching us."


TIF district


Finley several times has accused former city councils of giving money away to Lake Lawn Resort in the form of TIF-funded infrastructure improvements, even though the resort's owners were interested in selling the property.


Stebnitz disagrees with Finley's opinion that funding infrastructure is giving money away. The roads and sewers must be built, Stebnitz said. The TIF district is a success because the loan for the improvements is being paid off, he said.


"TIFs are one of the few tools a local government has to get companies to come to their city," Stebnitz said. "We get jobs and, in our case, a lot of shoppers from out of town. That's kind of what it's all about."


Finley said he has worked hard to renegotiate developers contracts to save the city money.


The goal should be to bring good-paying jobs to Delavan, he said.


"Check out DVDs of council meetings," Finley said. "I'm trying to make sure your tax dollars are being spent wisely by bringing good jobs to town. Not minimum wage jobs."


Bios

Gary C. Stebnitz


Age: 58


Address: 1006 S. Second Street, Delavan.


Job: Owner of Kustom Kitchen Designs, Delavan.


Education: Graduated from Delavan-Darien High School in 1969; earned a bachelor's degree in business administration from UW-Whitewater in 1974.


Community service: Volunteer firefighter from 1988 to 1996; member of the Lakeland Builders Association from 1995 to 2000; Delavan Red Devils youth football coach from 1999 to 2004; Red Devils treasurer from 2002 to 2004; founder of the Delavan-Darien Gridiron Club and president of the club from 2006 to 2009.


***


John Finley


Age: 58


Address: 201 W. Washington St., Delavan.


Job: Self-employed security consultant


Education: Trade school; currently studying journalism and public relations at UW-Whitewater.


Community service: Delavan Board of Zoning Review, 2000-06.


Elected posts: Delavan alderman, 2006-present.



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