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Whitefish Bay residents could see slight tax increase

2014 could bring new library fund, employee wellness program

Oct. 9, 2013

Whitefish Bay — Whitefish Bay has begun the review process for its 2014 recommended budget, as it prepares to adopt the final budget next month.

The Village Board this week conducted its first review session for the proposed approximately $14.3 million budget, which sets the property tax levy at about $10.6 million.

Residents can expect a slight increase in the property tax rate, which is projected at $5.37 per $1,000 of assessed value, up 2 cents from the 2013 rate. For the average homeowner in Whitefish Bay, that would amount to about an $8 increase in village taxes in 2014, Village Manager Pat DeGrave said.

In its review session Monday, the board addressed the general fund portion of the budget, reviewing the individual budgets for each major village department. New additions to the budget in 2014 will include a separate library fund as well as funding for an employee wellness program.

Finance Director Jennifer Amerell said a separate library fund was created in order to increase transparency and allow the board to better monitor library revenue and expenditures, which were previously included in the general fund.

With regard to the employee wellness program, DeGrave explained that the $5,000 budgeted would primarily be used for incentives to encourage employees to get involved in wellness initiatives and realize healthier lifestyles, which could ultimately help control the village's health insurance premium costs. The 2014 budget anticipates a 9 percent increase in the health insurance premium.

Reassessment set for 2014

Other expenditures noted by staff during the review include funding for an actuarial study to determine the village's Other Post Employment Benefits (OPEB) liability and a placeholder to cover a portion of the actual liability, as well as funding for new police vehicles, increased pothole repairs throughout the village, and a village-wide reassessment.

Manager's Assistant Kayla Chadwick noted that the reassessment also provides a good opportunity for the village to evaluate its existing assessor contract and determine whether it would like to make a change.

"I don't think we'll find a cheaper service," DeGrave said. "Could we find better service for the same price? I don't know. We're going to look at that this coming year, for 2015."

In light of higher than expected bank service fees incurred in 2013, the village will likely look into the possibility of handling its investments through another company in 2014 as well, DeGrave mentioned.

During the board's review, trustees expressed concerns about significant fluctuations in the budget from 2013 to 2014, particularly in the areas of licenses and permits and inspections.

DeGrave explained that those swings are largely attributed to the Mandel development. The village originally anticipated large increases in inspection revenues and expenditures for the project in the 2013 budget. However, delays will cause the permit revenue to be received in 2013, with the inspection expense to be made in 2014.

Trustee Garry Davis suggested that the village's policy on permits and inspections be reviewed, which DeGrave said could be taken up by the board at a future meeting.

Sewer rates could jump

The board has yet to review the portion of the budget that includes the debt service, capital and capital project funds, and the water, sewer, stormwater and parking utility funds.

According to the letter of transmittal included with the recommended budget, staff is proposing a sewer rate increase of 33 percent for 2014, to help cover debt service payments for the utility, which will fund projects along Larkin Street and Hollywood, Hampton and Bartlett avenues, in addition to design and construction inspection services.

About $11.6 million in capital projects will be financed through borrowing and special assessments for water, sewer and stormwater utility infrastructure improvements, the letter also states.

The board is scheduled to continue its review of the budget on Oct. 21, and is expected to approve the budget Nov. 18, following a public hearing.

NEXT STEP

WHAT: Village Board review session for 2014 recommended budget

WHEN: 7 p.m. Oct. 21

WHERE: Village Hall, 5300 N. Marlborough Drive

MORE INFO: To view the complete budget, visit wfbvillage.org, and select "2014 Recommended Budget" from the green "Quick Links" section on the right side of the page.

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