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City of Waukesha budget passes with 2.74-percent increase

Common Council cuts cemetery budget expenses

The Common Council approved $20,000 in the 2014 budget for maintenance of city medians throughout the year. The county only landscapes the areas — which are on county highways — once a year. Officials agreed more maintenance will improve the look of these areas.

The Common Council approved $20,000 in the 2014 budget for maintenance of city medians throughout the year. The county only landscapes the areas — which are on county highways — once a year. Officials agreed more maintenance will improve the look of these areas. Photo By Submitted photo

Nov. 26, 2013

The City of Waukesha's 2014 budget was adopted last week with a 2.74-percent increase in the tax levy.

The 2014 levy for the city is $53 million, City of Waukesha Finance Director Richard Abbott said. He added that this is still $1.01 million under what is allowed to be levied per state levy limit law.

Abbott said the tax rate per $1,000 of assessed value is $10.19. This means a homeowner with an assessed value of $200,000 will see about a $110 increase for the city portion of the tax bill. Total expenditures for 2014 are $59.24 million.

Looking back, the 2013 tax levy was $51.68 million and the city's tax rate was $9.63. There was a .42-percent increase in the tax levy and total expenditures were $58.12 million last year.

Abbott highlighted a few reasons for the increases.

· The city had an increase in worker compensation insurance.

· There was an increase in property and liability insurance for the city.

· There was a slight increase in vehicle expenses with the purchase of police and ambulance.

· Two positions were added for police (officer, lieutenant).

The Common Council had one last opportunity to trim various departments' budgets last week. In total, $38,800 was cut, but Abbott said this did not have an impact on the tax levy. The council moved this money to the contingency fund for unexpected expenses, Abbott said.

Prairie Home Cemetery, which is owned by the city, took the biggest hit from the transactions and led to the most discussion.

The Common Council took $33,000 out of its budget — $18,000 in advertising and $15,000 for consulting.

"Advertising is so wrong," Alderman Roger Patton said. "It's so goofy. People who are dying do so without advertising. It isn't like advertising Twinkies. Please take that out so we are not embarrassed by this."

The council did take it out, but it took a vote from Mayor Jeff Scrima to do so after a 7-7 tie.

Cemetery cuts

Alderwoman Kathleen Cummings shared a PowerPoint presentation comparing Waukesha to other cities that run cemeteries and said no other municipal budgets have advertising for cemeteries. She said Waukesha gives significantly more money than the other similar-sized cities.

Even with the cutbacks, the city will still give $112,000 to the cemetery in 2014, Abbott said. But that number has shrunk over the past few years.

In 2013, the cemetery received $151,911 after getting $194,961 in 2012. City Administrator Ed Henschel said in a memo to the Common Council that his goal is to have the cemetery self-sufficient by 2016.

"The goal of that (plan) is to somehow whittle it so the cemetery would not receive general fund support," Abbott said.

How it gets to that point is to be determined.

But an ad hoc committee was suggested by Henschel and many of the aldermen supported this option. They said a long-range plan needs to be further vetted.

Prairie Home Cemetery Manager David Brenner responded to Patton's comments.

"Cemeteries are not just about the dead," Brenner said. "They are clearly about the living. It's the living who benefits from the services."

Patton's proposals

Patton proposed many amendments to the budget, but all were shot down. The first was adding $45,000 for the Hebron House of Hospitality's winter overflow shelter. The shelter, at the former Northview School, continues to have funding issues and had been in danger of losing that site because of fire code violations.

Patton also wanted to add $10,000 for sidewalk sweeping three days a week for downtown since the Business Improvement District is no longer in place.

"It's the center of our city and we need to do this," Patton said.

However, there was not even a vote, because no one gave the motion a second.

Looking at museum

Patton's other hope to add money to the budget related to the Waukesha County Museum in downtown.

Patton wanted to add $5,000 for museum programming.

But like the motion before, no vote was taken due to a lack of second.

Cummings also had an amendment relating to the museum that was shot down.

She wanted to provide $6,500 for ground maintenance on the museum grounds. She said the city's Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department could have either provided the service or contracted it out.

Cummings, however, only had Patton on her side in the vote.

Money for entryways

The city also kept $20,000 in the budget for keeping the medians on highways in the city groomed 10 times a year. Henschel said that besides mowing, the city also plans on trimming as well as spraying weeds in cracks.

Henschel said the county has an agreement with the state to only mow these medians once a year.

"I wrote a letter to the state to encourage more frequent mowing in urban sections, because once a year is unacceptable," said Henschel, who added he has heard no response.

Cummings proposed cutting this portion in half as there was concern from some aldermen that the spending was too high.

Alderman Andy Reiland said that the No. 1-complaint he receives from his constituents relates to neighbors not mowing their lawns and that if the city can't cut its grass on the medians it negatively impacts the area.

Henschel said the $20,000 was the "midrange" amount and that the city is very cautious in how it uses its money.

"We have a very professional staff and we don't spend money unless we have to spend it," Henschel said.

2014 City Budget

·Tax Levy: The city portion of taxes in 2014 is $53 million or a 2.74-percent increase from last year's levy of $51.68 million

·Tax rate: $10.19 per $1,000; a homeowner with an assessed value of $200,000 will see about a $110 increase for the city portion of the tax bill

·Total expenditures: $59.24 million

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