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City of Brookfield budget keeps levy nearly flat

But future service levels are at risk

Nov. 21, 2012

The city of Brookfield Common Council adopted its 2013 municipal budget Tuesday.

The council held a public hearing for its proposed $38.7 million operating budget before voting, 14-0, to adopt it. The total city budget is $74.7 million.

Increases in 2013

The budget includes a property tax levy of $35.6 million, a 1.05 percent increase from the 2012 budget levy of $35.3 million.

"The increase is the fourth lowest in 22 years," Robert Scott, director of finance, said.

City of Brookfield homeowners will pay $5.51 per $1,000 assessed value in property taxes.

An owner of a home with an assessed value of $335,000 will pay $1,845 to support the city's 2013 budget.

"The city's tax impact remains quite sensible in comparison to other communities against whom the city is measured," Mayor Steve Ponto wrote in a letter to Brookfield residents in September. "Especially when taking into consideration the advanced level of services and support (full-time Fire Department, expansive park systems, and tax levy allocated for wastewater operations) funded in the Brookfield budget."

Scott said that of the expenditure issues affecting next year's budget, adjusting to Wisconsin Retirement System changes was one of the largest obstacles.

"There was an unexpectedly high increase in the contribution rate for the retirement system beyond what we were thinking," Scott said. "Even though the city is paying the employer share for all employee groups except sworn police officers, we are still subject to the increases mandated by the state."

An increase of nearly 9 percent in the city's contributions across all departments was established by the state Employee Trust Funds board.

Capital Improvement Fund

The city adopts an annual capital improvement program. Included in the 2013 plan is a $450,000 renovation for the Brookfield Public Library parking lot. The project includes resurfacing the lot and adding parking spaces. The current design was configured in the 1990s.

Public safety radios used by emergency management personnel will be replaced next year at a cost of $750,000. The radios departments use now are 12 years old and hard to repair because parts are hard to find. Chris Petterson, Waukesha County radio communications administrator, said the new radios are vital in emergency management situations.

"Public safety radios are often used for a decade or more on a 24/7 basis in police and fire service, subjected to rain and water, repeated drops, heat and smoke, and general rough usage," Petterson said. "Many of these (new) radios are also designed to operate safely in flammable and explosive environments."

Other capital improvement projects for 2013 include development of the Greenway Trail System, squad car video cameras for police and completion of the two-year St. James Street/Bermuda Boulevard storm sewer.

Looking for sustainability

Scott acknowledged that maintaining service levels will become difficult with new revenue restrictions. Act 32 of the state budget tightened property tax levy limits.

"If you were to draw it on a graph, the revenue line is increasing at a much slower rate than the expenditure line, even assuming nominal wage and cost increases," he said. "This means to meet the fiscal restraints we will have, we will have to deal with changes in our service levels."

Scott couldn't say which, if any, services would be changing in the near future, but said Brookfield residents are not in favor of reductions in service levels. A 2012 survey of residents, which included questions about service levels and budget choices, indicated that 86 percent of respondents felt their quality of life stayed the same or improved compared to 2006.

"There was very strong support for raising revenues in some fashion to maintain services as opposed to reducing services," Scott said.

Finding non-levy sources of funding is a continuing issue for the city. In 2013, Brookfield will lose an estimated $168,000 in transportation aid payments from the state, the mayor's letter said.

"The reduction disproportionately affected cities such as Brookfield who are paid on a share of cost basis," he wrote.

The full budget is available to the public for viewing at City Hall and on the city's website, www.ci.brookfield.wi.us.

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