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Bay looking at slight levy increase for 2013

Some unknowns to remain throughout budgeting process

Oct. 3, 2012

Whitefish Bay - Residents are looking at a slight increase in their tax bill for 2013, with a projected village levy of approximately $10.6 million, according to a draft budget overview presented to the Village Board on Monday.

That increase comes as a result of an overall levy increase of approximately $69,000, composed of the amount of new construction in the village and the amount of Whitefish Bay's increased 2013 contribution to the North Shore Fire Department.

Paired with a slight decrease in overall revenue and expenditures, the tax rate (per $1,000 of assessed value) is expected to increase by three cents to $5.34. For a Whitefish Bay home assessed at $400,000, the new rate would mean an increase of $12 in the village's portion of the tax bill.

Operating under a state-mandated levy limit, which caps any increases at the amount of net new construction in terms of equalized value and the amount of retired pre-2005 debt - though new debt is exempt - has been a challenge, said Village Manager Patrick DeGrave.

Staying within the limits

DeGrave added the village intends to keep its staffing and services the same in the coming year.

"We just tried to do a status quo budget as best we could," he said.

There are set changes within the draft budget, like a mandated contribution increase to the Wisconsin Retirement System, but also items subject to change, like public works employee contracts and health insurance, which are necessitating placeholders at this point in the budgeting process.

"This has been a real difficult budget," DeGrave told the board. "There are a number of things we don't know today, and we may not have a handle on until (the board) does the budget, so we had to make a number of assumptions."

Making adjustments

DeGrave said that village staff has been examining the allocation of employee labor and benefit costs to the water, sewer, parking, and new stormwater utilities, and has calculated percentages based on average time worked on utility related tasks.

"We now have better data to get what we have been calling a right-sizing of that allocation," said DeGrave, adding that the point of the changes wasn't to make up for a lack of revenue in the tax levy.

"It wasn't to gain revenue from utilities for the general fund," he said, "because some of the time allocations went up a little bit, and some went down a little bit."

The creation of a stormwater utility meant to help pay for storm system upgrades is also built into the 2013 budget, though it isn't expected to be operational until mid-2013 and the village hasn't yet determined how much it will be charging residents.

To better track expenses for such things as postage, office supplies and utilities, those costs will be consolidated and accounted for in one village department. In addition, the village is creating a Facilities Management Department to bring facilities and infrastructure costs into one department.

"We have facilities money in a variety of different budgets," DeGrave said. "We've simply synthesized that into one budget."

Dealing with unknowns

Still in the air are labor costs for public works employees, whose contract expires at the end of the year, and the cost of health insurance, which may change if the village elects to rescind its participation in a state plan. An average increase of 5.2 percent in premiums is assumed if the village remains in the state plan.

The DPW labor could hinge on whether Dane County Judge Juan Colas issues a stay on his decision to overturn certain areas of Gov. Scott Walker's budget repair bill, which limits public union's collectively bargain. At this point, the budget assumes that the restrictions will remain in place.

"If the stay is granted, everything goes back to what it was under Act 10 and we can move forward," DeGrave explained, "which means we will negotiate for wages up to the limits of the consumer price index."

If the stay isn't granted, said DeGrave, similar negotiations would take place over wages, but retirement contributions may be affected as well.

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