The proposed 2014 City of Brookfield budget calls for increasing the levy by 0.44 percent, the most that is allowed under the state levy limit, and the lowest increase in at least 23 years.
Mayor Steve Ponto expressed frustration with the levy limit, which only allows the city to increase the levy to account for debt services and the value of new construction as a proportion of the city's total value.
With Brookfield having the third-highest property values in the state, the value of new construction is a relatively low percentage, Ponto said.
"The levy limits we're facing are particularly harmful to a community like Brookfield that has a very large tax base and additional construction value is a very small percentage to that base," Ponto said.
The gap is growing between the amount the city can collect through property taxes and the cost to maintain existing programs. Finance Department staff estimate this gap will be $2.2 million by the 2018 budget if conditions don't change.
But the city does expect to bring in more money from other funding sources, including video franchise fees, building and permit fees, and hotel room taxes.
The proposed budget would be a 9.4 percent increase over 2013, totaling $79.23 million. For a home with a value of $335,000, that would mean an $8 increase for the city portion of the tax bill compared to a home of that value last year.
Much of the spending increase would be for salary adjustments based on union contracts, increasing pension contributions, employee healthcare costs and expected hikes in the cost of waste disposal.
"There continue to be few expenditure items contained in department budgets that are truly discretionary in nature," Ponto wrote in his budget summary.
One of the few additions to the budget would be a new position, an assistant for information technology. IT Director Kevin Beck said that position is necessary to keep up with increasing security requirements, such as those associated with accepting credit cards.
At the same time, another department would lose a position, a neighborhood planner/urban designer, that is currently vacant. Dan Ertl, director of community development and planning, said the change would be difficult at a time when development is picking up, but that the department could make up for some of the loss with paid interns and possibly hiring consultants.
"I can't say it will be successful, but I'm willing to see if it works," Ertl said.
Another area taking a hit is stormwater management, which will have a budget of $300,000, down $100,000 from last year.
Additional savings, $400,000, will come from a reduction in the city contribution to duty disability pension for sworn police and fire staff, in accordance with new policy from the Employment Trust Funds Board. There also will be a reduction in the budget for workers' compensation due to a reduction in claims, resulting in $125,000 in savings.
Ponto said any savings from Act 10 will not be realized until Dec. 31, 2014, when union contracts expire.
The Finance Committee will continue its budget review Oct. 10. There will be a public hearing on the budget Nov. 19.
The proposed budget can be found on the city of Brookfield website, www.ci.brookfield.wi.us.
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