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Fox Point officials looking for ways to keep levy flat

Current proposal calls for slight increase in levy, tax rate

Oct. 31, 2012

Fox Point - Fox Point residents can likely expect to see a village tax levy increase of less than 1 percent in 2013.

The Village Board on Monday held a work session to review the most recent draft of the proposed 2013 budget, which reflects a tax levy of just above $7 million, a 0.98 percent increase from 2012.

Village Manager Susan Robertson said the levy was kept down by applying a portion of the fund balance to the proposed 2013 budget. The portion of the levy that supports the general fund would actually decrease by nearly $182,000, in part by using fund balance, with the portion going toward debt service increasing by $250,000.

As currently proposed, the 2013 tax rate is projected at about $6.63 per $1,000 of assessed value, an increase of about 1.17 percent or 8 cents from the 2012 tax rate.

With two budget review sessions remaining before the board is scheduled to take action on the 2013 budget, however, trustees expressed support for considering ways to avoid any increase to the tax levy.

Use more fund balance

One option for holding the tax levy down could be to apply additional fund balance toward the budget, Robertson noted. With about $361,000 of fund balance already applied to the proposed 2013 budget, the village would maintain a fund balance at slightly more than the targeted level of 15 percent of the total general fund budget. Policy does allow the village's fund balance to go as low as 10 percent of the general fund budget, though, she said.

"I don't like higher taxes, but I think we do have things that could be big expenditures," Trustee F.R. Dengel said, listing emerald ash borer as an example. "I think we should consider a sizable fund balance to deal with the unknown things that are out there."

It would be possible for the board to designate more of the fund balance transfer for capital expenditures, Robertson said, as well as make other changes to the budget to keep the tax levy down. She told the board she would plan to provide at the next work session a list of different ways the village could achieve a zero increase to the tax levy.

The board also briefly discussed considering alternate investment options available to the village to possibly generate an additional $5,000 to $10,000 in interest.

"Five thousand dollars in a $6 million budget is not big, but $5,000 would certainly take care of a lot of emerald ash (borer) trees," Trustee Christine Symchych said.

Trustees agreed it would be worthwhile to request additional information from village staff in order to discuss those options further in the future.

Robertson also highlighted significant changes in other areas of the budget. The village does not have to make a payment to the state for income continuation insurance next year, Robertson said, which will save about $10,000. Expenses for Milwaukee Area Domestic Animal Control Commission services also are expected to decrease, by nearly 14 percent, and the village's contribution for North Shore Health Department services will remain at the existing level, Robertson said, as agreed upon with the other communities served by the department.

The budgets for the police and fire departments reflect no major changes overall, with about a 2 percent increase proposed for 2013. Trustees inquired about the possibility of budgeting for the next level of first responder training for police officers. Robertson said the benefits of doing the training may not outweigh the cost involved, but agreed to look into it and return to the board with more information.

Costs up in DPW, stormwater

As proposed, the Department of Public Works budget would increase by about 3.9 percent, which includes a slight increase for road salt expenses, an increase of about 19 percent for tires, and about a 10 percent increase for landfill tipping fees, Robertson noted.

The stormwater utility budget reflects the most significant increases in 2013, including the addition of $6,600 for maintenance costs at the Indian Creek retention basin, $42,000 for design work on an erosion control project for Goodrich Bridges, and the anticipated borrowing of $700,000 to complete stormwater capital improvements along Willow Road.

A total of about $804,000, including the amount to be borrowed, is budgeted for that project, which does not necessarily have to be completed in 2013.

The board is poised to consider which capital projects to include in the 2013 budget at another work session next week, as well as review the water and sewer utility budgets and debt services fund later this month. A public hearing and adoption of the budget is scheduled for the end of the month.

NEXT STEPS

WHAT:Village Board work sessions to review 2013 village budget and 2013-2022 capital improvement program budget

WHEN: 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 7, and Monday, Nov. 19; a public hearing and budget adoption is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 29.

WHERE: Schwemer Hall, Municipal Building, 7200 N. Santa Monica Blvd.

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