City Works To Soften Blow Of Tax Increase

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MTT News Desk's picture
Francesca Mastrangelo

With the Middleton City Council preparing to vote on the 2014 budget in the coming weeks, a recently proposed scenario for balancing the budget is front and center.

In recent finance committee meetings, city staff offered a tentative course of action which included reducing the general contingency account, eliminating the 2014 HRA contribution, freezing an anticipated vacancy in the Public Works Department, eliminating Saturday bus service and funding the confluence pond dredging project from Tax Increment District (TID) 3 rather than the General Capital Budget. 

This proposed 2014 budget as it stands right now is based on a line-item analysis approach developed by Finance Committee Chairman and District 8 alderman Mark Sullivan. The method centers on selecting department line items that are the lower than the 2012 actual expenditures or the 2013 budgets.

If city leaders want to keep taxes in check while satisfying community and departmental requirements in 2014, they face a significant challenge. In order to account for total requested expenditures of $22,436,421 and a levy amount of $15,549,369, the estimated mill rate remains a point of contention.

When Mayor Kurt Sonnentag weighed in with his thoughts on 2014 budget development he noted, “in terms of achieving a low tax rate, meeting citizen service needs and department budget requests, the 2014 budget is the worst one in years.”

“The only way to reach a 4 percent to 5 percent tax increase will be to eliminate filled positions, which is not desirable,” Sonnentag added. “A 12 percent tax rate would be needed to finance all department requests and such an increase would be way too much.”

After moving the $150,000 sidewalk repair budget from operating to capital budgets while opting to maintain the employee HRA budget, the city’s finance committee approved these suggested adjustments to the scenario.

The 2014 tax rate in this scenario would be $6.45 (per $1,000 of equalized value), which is an increase of 6.79 percent over 2013.  Without the proposed maneuvers, the tax rate would jump by an estimated 11.88 percent.

The Middleton Common Council is scheduled to deliberate on the proposed scenario this week. The council will host a public hearing regarding the budget in November.


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