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Higher labor costs account for most of the increase in city budget

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Higher labor costs account for most of the increase in city budget
River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

Wage and benefit increases for city employees - plus higher costs for property assessment and fire and ambulance services - are the main reasons for a 3.6 percent increase in the city of Hudson's general fund budget for 2005.

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The City Council adopted the $7,396,281 budget at its Nov. 15 meeting.

City Administrator Devin Willi said the $254,648 increase in spending next year is conservative when you consider the amount of growth in the city.

"The increase is small when compared to what a lot of municipalities are looking at to maintain current city services," Willi said. "In addition, many municipalities are looking at either tax increases or a reduction in services."

The total assessed valuation of taxable property in the city grew to $847 million in 2004, a $43.7 million (5.4 percent) increase from 2003. (The 2004 valuation will be used to calculate 2005 tax bills.)

Increased labor costs are the bulk of the reason for a $116,439 increase in the police department budget and a $61,749 increase in the public works department budget, Willi said.

Police spending in 2005 will total $2,153,837. The public works department's 2005 budget is $1,350,939.

Police patrol officers and sergeants will get a 2.5 percent raise next year under their current labor contract.

The city and its clerical and public works employees haven't reached a labor agreement for 2005, but a wage and benefit package increase similar to the police officers' was anticipated for budget purposes, Willi said.

A $29,000 increase in health insurance premiums for city employees is expected in 2005. This year, premiums jumped $155,000 from 2003.

The city budgeted an additional $40,858 for property assessment in 2005 to partially pay for a revaluation of all real estate in the city that will begin next fall and be competed in 2006.

The $73,927 subsidy to St. Croix Emergency Medical Services in 2005 is a $33,523 increase in funding from this year's budget. The city increased the funding level for the ambulance service to $7 per resident from the previous rate of $4 per resident to pay for upgrading to offer paramedic-level service.

Under the new certification that begins Jan. 1, St. Croix EMS will be able to transport cardiac patients directly to Twin Cities hospitals that specialize in heart care. Now, paramedic-level ambulance services in the Twin Cities must be called to pick up cardiac patients in Hudson.

A $65,639 increase in the fire department budget is attributed to equipment purchases and an increase in compensation for the volunteer firefighters. The department's 2005 budget is $494,203.

More than half of the fire department's expenses are charged to the other municipalities it serves - the towns of Hudson and (part of) Troy and the village of North Hudson.

The city's 2005 budget lists $345,487 in revenue from fire contracts to help offset the $494,203 in expenditures.

The biggest source of revenue in the 2005 budget is the $4,645,000 property tax levy.

The city will receive $666,811 in state transportation aid and $227,249 in state shared revenue. The transportation aid is off $31,939 from what the city received this year, and state-shared revenue will fall $5,416.

The city's water and sewer utilities will contribute $320,000 to the general fund in lieu of paying property taxes on their facilities.

The lodging tax is expected to generate $135,000 in revenue next year. The money is used to subsidize the local tourism bureau (part of the Hudson Area Chamber of Commerce) and a variety of other community organizations.

Willi and Mayor Jack Breault trimmed $220,000 from the budget requests submitted by city department heads. Requests for an additional full-time street maintenance worker and an additional half-time police clerk were among those denied.

Randy Hanson can be reached at rhanson@rivertowns.net.

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Randy Hanson
Randy Hanson has reported for the Star-Observer since 1997. He came to Hudson after 11 years with the Inter-County Leader at Frederic, and eight years of teaching social studies. He’s a graduate of UW-Eau Claire.
(715) 426-1066
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