Cindy moved to Brookfield in 1994 with her husband and three children in tow. It's been a very interesting seventeen years.
The first rumblings are being heard as to what will shape the next City of Brookfield budget. It won't be easy, but it can be done. Here are a few things to look forward to in the next couple of months.
1) A statement or quote, probably in the HuffPo Patch, from Mayor Steve Ponto about how darn hard it's going to be. We have to prepare the people, you know, that their taxes will go up.
2) A little more hoopla about the request to cause Brookfield union contracted employees to start making their pension contributions now instead of later.
3) Finally, a breezy piece in the city newsletter about how gallantly the City was able to arrange spectacular services and hardly any tax increase.
Ok, I'm not exactly giving you news here. This is pretty much the pattern every year. However, this year the city is looking at an assessment ratio of 110% instead of 106% according to the city assessor. That means you need to keep your eye on the tax rate as the equalized value of your property is going down. (It's complicated. I love you guys, but if you really want to know how this all works together, email me and we'll get down to details.)
As you get your equalized value statements this year in your tax bills, realize these are historically darn close to the actual market value of your property. It gets a little harder to guage with so much movement in the values recently, but I have seen the number to be accurate over and over again, and I have learned to trust it.
Now, what that means in terms of the city's budget is that there is less property value to tax on, and so the tax rate will need to go up to maintain the same income as last year. That income is really not as important as what the city spends, and what the city spends is often cushioned by special tax and stash funds (oh, the city won't call them that, but I always have) that keep money available to moved around for special needs.
One thing I think I saw last year was to move money from the general fund to the mosquito fund for a second abatement. Fine you say! Except that I swear we used to keep two abatements budgeted in the fund every year. If I'm following it accurately (and I've been away for a while, so I certainly could be wrong. You know a certain special Alderman will tell me very soon.) then there's a good chance that money was moved to be called spending.
I hate to say it because it sounds trite, but it really is about the spending.
I've explained over and over again, but I'll do so one more time, that it is the current year's spending that creates the base for the next year's spending limits. Although it causes very gregarious headlines to be printed that spending increased less than the maximum last year, when funds are moved to show spending mid-year, that maximum is magically achieved! Then the following year can build on the higher number and you are the nothing more than the lobster in the warming pot.
There have been some delightful changes over the last year or so. In spite of Finance Chairman Scott Berg's government-knows-how-to-spend-your-money-better-than-you-do discipline, a couple of alderfolk have made genuine cuts. I'd like to see that again this year. (And don't think you'll put something forward that hurts me, you all. About the only service I couldn't live without that you control is running water, and you just raised those rates. The water utility is so rich the city has been known to rob it.)
Ready, set, get those numbers crunching!