Mequon budget keeps tax levy flat
Staff reductions, use of reserve helps balance budget
Mequon - The Mequon Appropriations Committee on Tuesday passed the fiscal year 2013 city budget, keeping the tax levy flat due in part to a shrinking workforce.
For the 2013 budget, the total property tax revenue estimate totals $19,584,066, a decrease of $262,601, or 1.32 percent, from the 2012 levy. Despite a dip in property values across the city, the tax rate will not increase because the Appropriations Committee found funds elsewhere to keep a zero percent increase to the budget.
"What we tried to achieve this year was providing and recognizing a budget of fiscal restraint, one that acknowledges a very modest growth in its tax base, while still reaching our organizational goals," City Administrator Lee Szymborski said. "In the budget we focused on organizations goals that are long standing goals in this body: keeping the tax rate low, preserving infrastructure and maintaining high quality services."
The tax levy remains flat for numerous reasons. Over the past 12 years, the city workforce for has shrunk by about 13 percent. In 2012, the city saw a turnover of about 10 percent which is reflected in the 2013 budget. The city has had the benefit of reductions achieved in the last few years by consolidating jobs, using limited-term employees, and filling long-held positions with new employees at lower salaries. This has been true over the last few years, Szymborski said.
The workforce takes up 72 percent of the city's general fund for 2013. In 2011, it was 79 percent.
The budget also includes a small salary increase to employees that have had their wages frozen over the last two years.
Small changes on tap for 2013
The city's goal is to always keep 10 percent of its money in the undesignated reserve fund, or fund balance. The 2013 budget taps into the fund balance, using $185,000. Despite this withdrawal, the fund balance still sits above the 10 percent goal at 13.8 percent. The fund balance in 2013 totals $2,047,680.
The budget also incorporates the Common Council's recent efforts of long-term planning, particularly in the road program.
"As the city has done in the last number of years, we borrowed for our road program and made significant strides in improvement," Szymborski said.
Borrowing for the road program is once again proposed in the 2013 budget.
Szymborski said borrowing funds will be up for discussion at a December Common Council meeting.
Continuing IT overhaul
Also proposed in the budget is a continuation of the overhaul of the city's information technology system. Szymborski said much of the software is already in place; however, there are a few smaller IT upgrades the city is planning for 2013.
One proposal is making all of the agendas web-based and looking at software currently used by Ozaukee County.
"We could piggyback off the county contract and get a good deal," Szymborski said.
The budget includes a proposal to eliminate paper packets and have them delivered to Common Council members via iPads, which is meant to make the packets more organized and easily searchable.
Alderman John Wirth said he would be interested in a cost-benefit analysis of implementing these types of IT programs and was in favor of the upgrades.
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