New Berlin mayor and council agree on a stress-free budget
Package includes levy which won't increase property tax bills
New Berlin — The city has created a 2014 budget with no property tax increase.
As proposed, the budget, which will be presented at a public hearing Nov. 5, would have $34.4 million in operating expenditures, an amount 0.1 percent less than was set aside for this year, said Treasurer Ralph Chipman.
The proposed levy would be up $215,000 or 0.89 percent, but the property tax rate is expected to stay at $5.51 per $1,000 of assessed value.
The Common Council had asked for a zero-tax-increase budget, and Mayor Dave Ament said he is pleased that he and the department heads were able to deliver one. Part of the reason why is that the city's tax base has grown a bit, yielding more tax dollars to work with, he said.
In contrast to the emotional budget battles at the council level that have occurred in recent years, the budget went through with virtually no changes.
"It's a very good budget," Ament said.
Keeping a pay promise
The mayor said it addresses pay promises the city made to new employees but was not able to immediately fulfill.
Some employees were hired at below the going rate as far back as 2007, with the promise of modest raises each year to catch them up to the median, Ament explained. Some of those employees got some of the promised step raises while others didn't get any, he said.
Fulfilling those commitments started with a $206,000 bump in spending for the 2014 budget in addition to an anticipated 15 percent increase in health insurance costs, Ament said. When budget development started months ago, spending would have been up $1.5 million, Ament said.
But priorities were set and services were preserved while keeping property taxes at a zero increase, he said.
Ironically Ament said, "The people getting step increases played a major part getting us to where we are (on the zero tax increase)."
Besides the step pay increases, the 2014 proposed budget contains 1 percent across-the-board raises for nonunion employees and 2 percent for employees of the library, which submits a separate budget. Money also has been set aside in the budget for raises for unionized employees when contract agreements are final.
All raises are now found in the contingency account, giving them more transparency, Ament said. To actually give raises, the council will have to approve transfers from the contingency to departmental budgets and everyone will know how much the raises are.
"So, they're not buried in the budget," he said.
Same service overall
The budget would improve medical services by adding a full-time emergency medical technician to respond to ambulance calls, he said.
Otherwise, services would remain unchanged next year, Chipman said.
"There's no change up or down," he said.
The largest share of proposed 2014 operating budget spending would be for public safety set at $13.9 million.
Debt service would be next at $7.1 million, followed by general government at $5.5 million, public works at $3.8 million, the library at $1.4 million, park and recreation at $1.3 million, and community development at $622,000.
Total spending pending
The total spending plan for 2014 is still being hammered out.
The Common Council has not yet discussed spending in funds that don't affect the 2014 property tax levy, Chipman said. One of those is the capital improvement fund that won't affect the levy until 2015. The other funds are the stormwater fund, the sewer and water utility and the special revenue fund, he said.
But the projection for 2014 is total spending of $58.2 million, which is lower than the $62.8 million to be spent by the end of this year. Nearly all the difference is the amount and timing of road projects this year, Chipman said.
AT A GLANCE
A public hearing will be held at 7 p.m. Nov. 5 in New Berlin City Hall, 3805 S. Casper Drive, to review the 2014 city budget:
Total 2014 proposed operating budget: $34,441,487
Estimated 2013 operating budget spending: $34,109,428
Difference: up $332,059, or 1 percent
Proposed 2014 levy: $24,436,282
2013 levy: $24,221,282
Difference: up $215,000 or 0.89 percent
Total all funds proposed 2014 budget: $58,248,626
2013 all funds budget: $62,764,579
Difference: down $4,515,953 or 7 percent
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