City's operations budget is lower than it was four years agoThe Hudson City Council approved $7,651,341 in operational spending for 2013 when it met Nov. 19. Next year’s operations budget is $30,000 less than the 2012 budget and $330,000 lower than the 2009 budget.
The Hudson City Council approved $7,651,341 in operational spending for 2013 when it met Nov. 19.
Next year’s operations budget is $30,000 less than the 2012 budget and $330,000 lower than the 2009 budget.
“The budget has been going down,” City Administrator Devin Willi noted.
The city has been aided in the effort to reduce spending by Wisconsin Act 10, the 2011 state law that repealed most collective bargaining for government employees. The law prohibits government and school employees from bargaining for wage increases greater than the rate of inflation, or on issues such as health insurance, pensions and workplace conditions.
Even before Act 10 was adopted, the city left the state health insurance plan and went with a lower-cost insurance plan for city employees.
Also, city departments have been ordered to submit budget requests at or below the previous year’s spending in recent years.
In a memo the City Council members, Willi said all of the city’s departments met the directive, except for the fire department, St. Croix EMS and the library.
The fire department will have a $34,000 increase in equipment expenditures in 2013, due largely to the purchase of an air compressor for refilling firefighter air-packs and SCUBA tanks for the dive team.
Fire Chief Jim Frye in a Sept. 5 letter to Mayor Alan Burchill, alderpersons and the Hudson Area Joint Fire Board, said the fire department couldn’t absorb a budget cut without reducing services or delaying responses to incidents.
“Over the past several years, there has been no increase in the fire department budget, while the cost for goods and services continues to rise,” Frye wrote. “I have continued to make budget cuts while providing additional services such as rescue for the community of Hudson for the past two years, but this can be done no longer,” Frye wrote.
The City Council rejected Frye’s request for money to make the fire department’s part-time administrative assistant position full-time.
Frye said a full-time office worker is needed because of the increased workload of the department.
“At this point, there are many tasks that do not get done because of the part-time nature of the position,” Frye said in his letter to council members.
He said making administrative assistant Miranda Kustrich’s position full-time would delay the more costly alternative of hiring a full-time fire chief.
Alderperson John Hoggatt supported the request for a full-time administrative assistant.
“Of all the departments, that seems like one we should have someone there 40 hours a week,” Hoggatt said.
But Mayor Burchill said it would take an additional $30,000 to make the position full-time.
Burchill said the city is looking into having another city employee take on some of the fire department’s office work.
The city’s share of the fire department budget for 2013 is $596,252, or 7.8 percent of total operational expenses.
Willi, in a memo on the budget to council members, noted that the other municipalities served by the fire department (the towns of Hudson and Troy, and the village of North Hudson) will reimburse the city for a portion of the equipment expenses.
Willi said the EMS and library budgets increased slightly because they are funded on a per capita basis, and the city’s percentage share of the population served by St. Croix EMS and the Hudson Area Library grew.
Total general fund spending for 2013 will rise a little more than $4,000 from 2012 when short-term capital spending is included.
The City Council decided to buy two police vehicles instead of one in 2013, boosting total general fund spending to $7,746,341.
When $1,350,787 in debt service payments is included, the city’s 2013 expenditures total $9,087,128, almost exactly the same as for 2012.
The tax levy for 2013 will be $6,528,610, up just under $20,000 from the levy for this year.
The portion of the levy for operations is $5,177,823, or 79.3 percent. The levy for debt payment is $1,350,787, or 20.7 percent.
What it means for property owners is that the city portion of their tax bill for 2013 should remain nearly the same. The exception would be if the value of their home or business grew or declined more than the average in the city.
The city’s current assessed valuation is $1,416,784,150, a 2-percent drop from the figure used to calculate the tax bills for 2012.
As a result, the mill rate for the city’s portion of the property tax will rise to $4.61 per $1,000 of assessed value, an 11-cent increase from the previous year.
But because assessed values are down, most property owners won’t see an increase in the city portion of their tax bill.
The same can’t be said for their total property tax bill, which is projected to increase 5.3 percent.
The overall rate, for city property owners, will be $17.70 per $1,000 of assessed value, a hike of 89 cents from a year ago.
Alderperson Lori Bernard emphasized that other taxing districts – the county and the school district in particular – were responsible for the increase. For the owner of a house with a $250,000 assessed value, it will amount to $222.
“It is important for people to know who is doing what,” Bernard said.
St. Croix County’s tax levy on city properties is up 8 percent from the previous year. City property owners will pay of total of $5,773,991 to county in 2013, and increase of $425,461 from 2012.
City Administrator Devin Willi said $277,000 of the increase is due to the city no longer being exempt from the county library levy.
The Hudson School District’s levy rose 7.2 percent to a total of $13,337,948 for city property owners.
Of the total tax bill city property owners pay, roughly 49 percent goes to the school district, 24 percent to the city, 20 percent to the county, 6 percent to Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College and 1 percent to the state.
Willi said the size of the lottery credit that will be subtracted from homeowners’ tax bills isn’t known yet.
He said that with building construction on the upswing he expects the city’s valuation to increase in the coming year. The new Uline distribution center alone is expected to add about $25 million to the city’s tax base.
Alderperson Mary Yacoub asked if money was set aside in budget to pay for a possible judgment or settlement in a Wisconsin Professional Police Association lawsuit against the city.
Willi said there is money in a contingency fund to cover contributions into police officers’ health reimbursement accounts that the city stopped paying at the beginning of 2012.
The city stopped making the annual payments of $1,750 for a single policy and $3,500 for a family policy when the collective bargaining agreement between the city and the police union expired at the end of 2011.
The union filed suit to have the payments reinstated. The case is now making its way through St. Croix County Circuit Court.
Mayor Burchill indicated that difficult decisions had to be made in drafting the city’s 2013 budget, but he said the process went more smoothly than it has in a long time.