The Finance Committee held its fourth and final 2009 budget meeting on Monday, October 20. The mayor and department managers were on hand to answer questions as they arose. You may download the entire proposed budget by clicking on the following link. Page numbers in this entry refer to this document.
For those of you who like the bottom line on the top...
The proposed 2009 operating fund levy (page 34) was $24,965,000. It was cut by $141,000 to $24,824,000. That was acheived by a combination of cutting costs and raising estimates of non-property tax revenues. All such adjustments were applied to lowering the property tax instead of funding a reserve fund, etc. The table below shows the tax rate (city property tax per $1,000 assessed valuation) before and after the adjustments. The right three columns compare taxes for three typically priced Brookfield houses.
Please keep in mind that these are estimates since some factors such as state aid and assessed value are not finalized. Also, this is only the city portion of the tax bill and does not include school taxes, county taxes, lottery tax credit, etc.
At the previous meeting held October 13, the fuel budget was reduced by $60,000. This was based on a more optimistic assumption for the average 2009 fuel price than that provided by the federal government to the staff. See my earlier blog of October 13.
One staff member observed that if (when?) the gas money runs out in early December and there's more snow falling, the city will have to make an emergency allocation from a rainy day (well, snowy day) reserve fund to pay for gas to plow the streets. Thus, a counter-argument to this adjustment is that you are raising the risk of deficit spending to make one year's tax rate look better. Low gas prices and no snow - sound realistic to you?
2nd District Ald. Bob Reddin started the meeting by proposing a $50,000 cut in the library's materials (mostly new books) purchase account (page 122). The historical spending levels are:
|2009 (amended)||$205,761 (-16.3%)|
|2009 (proposed)||$255,761 (+4.0%)|
|2008 (est)||$245,815 (+2.2%)|
Ald. Reddin's claim is that the new book spending as a percentage of the total budget is more than other communities he considers comparable. Ald. Lisa Mellone indicated that she spoke to many Brookfield mothers and that they considered the young children's story time activity to be critical but did not object to other library cuts. Ald. Nelson stated he considered the library to be a much appreciated service and this cut was too deep. The mayor's reluctant proposal in his budget memo was a cut of $20,000.
The staff pointed out an important point of state law. The library budget dollar amount is set by the city council, but the actual allocation of that money to salary, books, etc. is, by state law, the responsibility of the Library Board. Thus, while the council can cut the total library budget, it cannot direct that cut to books exclusively. It is possible the Library Board will decide to buy the same amount of books and instead lay off staff, cut Sunday hours, etc. to make the reduction.
This was moved by Ald. Reddin, seconded by Ald. Lisa Mellone and passed 4 ayes (Sutton, Reddin, J. Mellone, L. Mellone) to 3 nays (Garvens, Nelson, Berg).
Note that this is the only department specific spending cut.
All Brookfield hotels place a 7% tax on each room sale. Most of that money has always gone to the general revenue fund. It can be viewed as paying for police and fire protection, road wear, etc. in addition to the property tax the hotel already pays. The rest goes to the Economic Development Committee (EDC) and the Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) which promote shopping and businesses in Brookfield, handle queries to the city from potential new businesses wanting to locate here, etc. This table (page 37 & 214) summarizes that tax.
|Year||Room Tax||General Fund||EDC||CVB|
Ald. Sutton has long claimed that the budgeted number runs well below the actual value. He does not accept the idea that 2008 room taxes are unusually high due to rooms rented to people attending one time events such as the Harley-Davidson festival and Milwaukee Brewers during a winning season. Further, he does not expect room rentals to fall in 2009 due to a bad economy. His original proposal was to raise the revenue estimate by $55,000 which was seen by other aldermen as pretty optimistic.
Ald. Sutton moved, Ald. Jerry Mellone seconded to increase the projection in room taxes by $25,000, lowering property taxes by that amount. It passed 4 ayes (Sutton, Berg, J. Mellone, L. Mellone) to 3 nays (Reddin, Garvens, Nelson).
Ald. Lisa Mellone stated that the total training budget for all 363.65 full time equivalent employees is $111,000. There was a lengthy discussion about how police officers, firemen, city engineers, librarians, information technology staff, etc. need to attend various seminars and classes to maintain professional certifications as well as keeping up with current technology, state and federal regulations, etc. Ald. Lisa Mellone moved and Ald. Jerry Mellone seconded to cut that by $6,000 to $105,000. The motion carried unanimously.
Just as significant are the things that were not cut, as first described in my blog of October 12.
There are no layoffs of employees, including policeman, fireman, road crew, city hall staff, etc.
The D.A.R.E. program is still fully funded.
There is no change to ambulance (EMS) or fire service.
The bike way and Greenway Corridor projects are intact.
Park and Recreation programs are untouched and at the same fees.
The Senior Center remains fully funded.
Funding for the new traffic calming studies is funded at $15,000
There are also a few hidden assumptions:
- Interest rates paid on city reserve funds will remain steady
- Interest rates on city bonds issued for new construction will remain low.
- New construction and remodelling will remain steady, supplying building permit fees ($1.4 million)
The public hearing for the budget will be held Tuesday, November 18 and the budget will be adopted at that meeting. It is possible for the council to modify the budget further at that time.
If you want to lobby for some change, adding or subtracting, call your aldermen.
So, what do you think?