In a time when municipal budgets are stretched thin, Whitefish Bay trustees unanimously adopted a relatively flat budget that would increase the tax levy by two-thirds of a percent.
Under the budget, a $400,000 homeowner will pay $12 more in taxes this year. The tax rate will increase from $5.32 per $1,000 of assessed value to $5.35 per $1,000 of assessed value. The tax levy rose from $10.5 million to $10.6 million.
No one from the public spoke at the budget hearing held before the Monday night meeting.
The village had to account for rising costs, such as an increase in its contribution to the North Shore Fire Department, an estimated $89,000 increase in its contribution to the Wisconsin Retirement System and a 5.2 percent increase in health insurance premiums.
In his second year working on a Whitefish Bay budget, Village Manager Patrick DeGrave said he and Village Clerk/Finance Director Jen Amerell were able to dig into the budget find savings opportunities, such as changing how they budget for DPW workers' vacation time.
They also underwent what DeGrave called a "right-sizing" of the village's utilities by appropriately budgeting the amount of time each staff member spent on utility work.
The budget accounts for a 35 percent increase in water rates. Also, sewer rates will increase 5 percent to cover a shortfall in the sewer utility fund. Increasing the fee to $2.65 per 100 cubic feet is expected to generate an additional $62,000 in revenue next year. The rate increase will take effect at the beginning of 2013.
"We didn't balance the budget on each of the utilities," DeGrave said. "There were handful of opportunites we had to bring this budget in balanced."
Consistent with Act 10, all non-union employees received a 2 percent salary increase. The village's two remaining unions, the police union and the Department of Public Works union, have not yet begun negotiations with village administration.
Police officers and detectives still have the ability to collectively bargain for salary and benefits, but under Act 10, the DPW union's contract goes away at the end of 2012. DPW employees are only able to negotiate salary increases up to the consumer price index.
The following capital projects were approved by Whitefish Bay trustees during the budget process:
- $56,500 for marked patrol cars;
- $50,400 for police digital radios;
- $75,000 for brine making street equipment;
- $50,000 for a garbage truck;
- $75,000 for a police records management system;
- $35,900 for the installment of accounting software;
- $63,800 to replace the server at Village Hall.
DeGrave also led the village to by changing the way the village contracts for health insurance, although those savings were not realized in this year's budget because the changes were made after the budget was published.