The owner of a $400,000 home will see the village portion of the tax bill increase by $52 this year under a budget approved by the Whitefish Bay Village Board Monday night.
The nearly $14 million budget includes a levy increase of 2.56 percent over last year, bringing the levy to roughly $10.5 million. The tax rate would increase from $5.18 to $5.31. That means a resident with a home assessed at $400,000 would see village taxes rise by $52 to $2,124 when the bills are mailed out next month.
Revenue and expenditures are both increasing 0.37 percent.
The budget for major road or sewer projects, while using $775,000 of reserve funds, including $589,000 for a and $150,000 for an .
The board was originally faced with a , but the levy dropped by roughly 2 percent after recent changes to next year's debt service payment, the elimination of a redundant liability insurance line item and the board's decision to use reserve money to pay for a new street sweeper.
Under Gov. Scott Walker's budget, the village saw a $58,692 cut in state shared revenue, a $70,361 cut in state transportation aid and a $26,100 cut in state recycling grants.
The village is contractually obligated to existing pension costs and 1.5 percent wage increases for police officers and public works employees. Department of Public Works union contracts expire at the end of this year, and police officers are not subject to the provisions of the state's new collective bargaining law.
Resident Robert Crawford said he sat in on some of the budget hearings and was impressed with Village Manager Patrick DeGrave's handling of the budget process in his first year on the job. The budget was available both online and in print at budget hearings.
"He really revamped the way we budget in Whitefish Bay, and he brought a high level of discipline to the budget process," he said during the public hearing.
Funding for School Health Aide Questioned
Crawford also said he opposed the roughly $8,000 line item for part-time health aides at and , an expense the village has paid for roughly 25 years. DeGrave identified the cost as a potential savings during the start of the village's budget process.
"We provide these services for people that go to our public schools," Crawford said. "If parents choose not to send their kids to public schools, they shouldn't expect the village to provide parallel services to wherever they decide to send their kids. We choose one funding source, and that's the public schools."
Village President Julie Siegel and trustees Kevin Buckley and Jay Miller agreed with Crawford, while trustees James Roemer and Richard Foster said the funding should be restored.
Holy Family School Board President Tom Kister said the school has not budgeted for the service, and he encouraged trustees to maintain the level of funding. He said more than 80 percent of the 350 families at the two schools live in Whitefish Bay.
"I think this funding provides an efficient way to serve a very large number of village residents at two locations," he said.
The board decided to pass the overall budget with the health aide funding intact, but trustees will revisit the issue at a future board meeting.
Sewer Utility Rates Rising
Sewer utility rates will increase by 34.3 percent, from $1.88 per 100 cubic feet to $2.52 per 100 cubic feet.
The sewer utility budget has a deficit of $304,572, and the user rate increase would clear out that deficit. DeGrave presented the board with a number of options, ranging from a 10 percent increase to a 25 percent increase. The rate increase passed in a 3-2 vote, with Buckley and Miller voting against, in favor of phasing out the increase over two years.
A per-household impact could not be pinned down at the meeting, but trustees estimate the increase would amount to a roughly $60 increase in sewer fees over the course of a year.
"Sixty-something dollars doesn't sound like very much money in the grand scheme of things, but this is just a segment of costs the taxpayers are going to have to confront," Miller said.
The water utility rate is also likely to increase, but that requires an application to the Public Service Commission. Village staff will bring forward a rate case for the Village Board to review in the next several months, as it is separate from the general fund.