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Three newcomers jump on Mequon primary ballot

Candidates discuss development, school enrollment

Jan. 22, 2013

Mequon - Three newcomers are vying for the 4th District aldermanic seat on the common council, one of whom will be knocked off the ballot come spring.

For the Feb. 19 primary Cherry Lange, Jeff Hansher and John Leszczynski are in the running. Current District 4 Alderman and Common Council President John Wirth is not running for re-election.

Stimulating business

Leszczynski, a business owner and member of the Mequon Planning Commission, is hoping to make it easier for businesses to move to the area.

With state-mandated levy limit restrictions and budgetary constraints facing the city, Leszczynski said "as important as it is to balance the budget, it's equally important to increase the revenue stream by trying to allow a little more construction in our city."

Hansher, a teacher at Jefferson Elementary School in Wauwatosa, is in favor of increasing the tax base in a way that makes sense for Mequon. He said this is one solution to levy limits and budget restrictions.

"I think the way to go is to build the tax base because I don't know if we're going to get any money from the state," Hansher said. "If you keep on cutting the budget, then you're going to cut services. And right now, Mequon has done a good job at balancing and I think under the current mayor, he has more of a vision of what Mequon needs to do in order to go on in the future."

Lange, who is retired after 32 years working as vice president of Wisconsin Discount Securities, said bringing new development to the city would be the best way to balance the budget.

"I think Mequon runs pretty lean the way it is," Lange said. "I don't think there's a lot of cost cutting available. …Maintaining the rapport we have with the current businesses as well as reaching out to anyone else who would want to develop in Mequon would be the focus of my campaign."

Leszczynski said allowing additional construction dollars in the community provides the city with some tax incentives that could help build revenue for the city.

"Let's grow construction as well as look at areas where some fat can be trimmed," he said.

Facing low school enrollment

In addition to budget limitations, the city is tied to the issue of declining enrollment in the school district.

With two children in the public school system in Mequon and one who graduated, Hansher said the Mequon-Thiensville School Board can increase open enrollment as a short-term solution, which would increase district funding.

One long-term solution that has recently been discussed at the city level is creating more affordable housing. One problem with that, Hansher said, is it's not a certainty that people purchasing those homes would even have children who would attend public schools.

"There could be a problem that if you build more affordable housing where it's competing with older homes at the same price, it could lower the value of someone already owning a house, which can cause another problem," Hansher said. "At this point, try to increase open enrollment."

Leszczynski said fixing the enrollment problem in the schools does not have an easy solution as there has been declining enrollment for the past decade.

"You can turn that around in a couple different ways, but can you turn it around in healthy ways? That's the question," he said. "You can put in low income housing and bring kids and families into the community but is that healthy growth? I'm not sure yet."

Despite the need for an open dialogue on the best solution to declining enrollment, Leszczynski said the village board needs to focus on maintaining quality schools and "a viable school system for our kids."

Not being familiar with the issue, Lange did not comment on declining enrollment.

"I am running to give back to my community and I'm interested in what's going on around me," she said.

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