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Fox Point taxpayers face slight increase

Village budget up about $120,000

Dec. 3, 2013

Fox Point — Officials in Fox Point have approved a 2014 budget that will increase the amount of taxes levied on property owners by 0.35 percent.

The Village Board on Monday passed a resolution that will levy $7.01 million in taxes to fund the various pieces of the 2014 budget. Last year, the village's levy was set at $6.98 million. State law only allows municipalities to increase taxes based on the rate of new construction within the past year.

Taxes will help fund a number of things in the overall budget. The majority will be applied to everyday operations in the general budget, which has been set at $6.91 million, up slightly from last year's general operating budget of $6.79 million.

Additional tax dollars will be applied to other budgetary items, including shared service arrangements with neighboring municipalities to fund the North Shore Library, North Shore Fire Department and North Shore Water Filtration Plant.

Village Manager Melissa Bohse said the budget was built with a number of assumptions, including a slight projected increase in revenue from court fines in the upcoming year and an anticipated increase in costs for utilities and fuel.

Treasurer retiring

In the year ahead, one staffing change is planned, and Bohse said it should yield savings. Longtime Village Treasurer John S. George is set to retire Dec. 31. Village Clerk Tanya O'Malley will assume some of George's duties with a dual clerk-treasurer position in 2014.

In the past two months, the board had been meeting with village staff over a period of six planning sessions to hash out the 2014 budget and a longer-range capital improvement plan.

Prior to adopting the budget Monday, officials held a public hearing. Vocal opponents Larry Both and Bob Cory revisited their concerns of the oft-discussed Bridge Lane ravine footbridge.

Booth and Cory have previously spoken against using taxpayer dollars to fund a replacement of the footbridge, which has roots going back about a century ago. Inspectors deemed the original footbridge unsafe, and it was removed this summer after being blocked to pedestrians in recent years.

An estimate to put a new footbridge at the site hovers around $1.1 million to $1.2 million, and the village is seeking about $625,000 in donations from a group known as Footbridge Friends.

While Fox Point's matching contribution is conceptually included in the budget, Village President Mike West said no firm decisions have been made on the replacement of the footbridge. Borrowing might be necessary if the village does proceed with plans to fund a portion of the project.

"There has been no borrowing specifically and solely for the bridge," West said. "When we borrow, we pass resolutions that specifically identify what projects are being funded."

Debt should be paid down

Booth said he would like to see the footbridge funds applied elsewhere.

"I'm just trying to save the taxpayers money," Booth said. "If it's not going to be used, why not use it to pay down debt?"

Cory, meanwhile, lambasted the board for asking Booth to sit down after speaking beyond five minutes.

"You sit in those seats as representatives of us," Cory said to the board.

Most of the taxing entities within Fox Point are decreasing their levy amounts in the year ahead. Aside from the village, the only other entity to increase taxes in 2014 is the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District, with a 0.38 percent rise.

Fox Point's tax rate is expected to dip slightly in the year ahead, from $6.59 per $1,000 of assessed value in 2013 to $6.57 per $1,000 of assessed value in 2014.

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