The city speaks: Putting together the 2017 budget
By Steve Barg
Fall brings many changes. Students head back to school, football returns for another year, leaves turn to bright colors, and the summer heat fades into crisp autumn mornings. At City Hall, it means that city officials must once again work to develop another budget for the coming year.
If you have followed this in recent years, you realize that the city faces many challenges in preparing the annual budget, including restrictions and incentives from the state of Wisconsin that are intended to limit municipal property tax increases. The main restriction is called levy limits, which generally restrict communities to the same tax levy as the previous year, with a couple of exceptions, including an allowance to collect a certain amount of additional funds to help support new construction.
The incentive is found in the Expenditure Restraint Program (ERP), which rewards municipalities who limit their general fund expenses to very modest increases over the previous year. As you may remember, last year the city had to make significant cuts and other budget adjustments — $800,000 worth — in order to meet the ERP requirements, but as a result we will receive an ERP payment in 2017, expected to be around $400,000.
The formula used in determining the percentage increase allowed ERP includes an inflation component (called the CPI index), which is higher this year. As a result, we will not have as much difficulty complying in the 2017 budget, assuring us of an ERP payment in 2018.
Given these financial constraints, the proposed 2017 budget will largely focus, as it has in recent years, on doing our very best to continue the current programs and services and not much beyond that.
Even though the August referendum on streets did not pass, we are aware that our residents want to see more street work performed, and we want you to know that we will do everything that we possibly can in 2017 and beyond to repair and maintain our roads. As you can imagine, major street work — such as reconstructions and resurfacing projects — is very expensive, but we have a prioritized list, based upon need, and we will get to these streets as soon as we reasonably can. Beyond that, we will make a strong effort to keep up on preventative maintenance like slag sealing, filling cracks, etc., in an attempt to get the most life possible out of each street before more significant work is required.
On behalf of the mayor, city council, and city staff, I strongly encourage you to make your voice heard during the next few weeks as the city prepares and adopts its 2017 budget. Based on past discussions, I can tell you that all comments and suggestions given to us by our citizens are reviewed and given much consideration.
Please contact me at 715-486-2003 or [email protected] with your thoughts so that I can get your ideas to the mayor and council members, and I hope that you will consider attending one of our upcoming budget meetings. Dates and times will be posted on our website, and all of these meetings are open to the public.
Thank you very much, and I wish you and your family a wonderful autumn.