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Town of Waukesha budget has slight tax levy increase, but rate drops

Chairman Marek, supervisor Banske disagree over legal fees

Dec. 10, 2013

The Town of Waukesha approved its 2014 budget last week with a slight increase in the tax levy at three-tenths of a percent.

The 2014 levy for the town is $1.648 million and the tax rate per $1,000 of assessed value is $1.874. This is very similar to the 2013 levy of $1.643 million and the tax rate per $1,000 was $1.878.

According to Assessor Marty Kuehn, a homeowner with an assessed value of $242,800 (the median in the town) will pay about $455 in taxes in 2014.

Total expenditures for 2014 are just more than $3 million, very similar to this year's amount.

General government expenses are decreasing by about $35,000 from 2013 to 2014.

The major changes in this category includes budgeting less money for legal fees — $90,000 in 2014 compared to $120,000 in 2013.

But this amount is $30,000 more than the $60,000 originally proposed after multiple budget workshops, Town Chairman John Marek said.

The Town of Waukesha spent more than $250,000 in legal fees in 2012. At a meeting earlier this year, Supervisor Joe Banske said the litigation with the Town of Brookfield's proposed incorporation cost the town $131,615 in legal fees in 2012.

"We had discussed $60,000 extensively and that was a number we all agreed on," Marek said. "But Mr. Banske saw fit to change that. It's still three times what our 10-year average was before the previous board being sworn in. It's (much more) than similar-sized towns around us. Many are at $10,000 and $20,000."

"Even $60,000 was too much. It should have been at $30,000 or $40,000."

Needing more legal

Banske countered Marek's argument and said the town has more issues at hand.

"Do those towns deal with annexations, incorporation or a chairman who refuses to follow the advice of our town attorney?" Banske questioned.

When asked why he doesn't feel extra money should be budgeted for legal fees, Marek said "there's nothing left to fight."

Not true, Banske says.

"It was not a last-minute change that they would have you believe," Banske said. "And $60,000 is a number that's probably the baseline for the day-to-day operations of the town on an annual basis, especially for a town that has lots of moving pieces and is as divisive as our board."

Banske added $30,000 to the budget partly because he says the Town of Brookfield's attempt to incorporate isn't going away.

"We will certainly have activity in that arena this coming year," Banske said.

Moreover, he said having the town included in the City of Waukesha's future water service area (in its quest for Great Lakes water) will require additional legal services.

Town has other needs

But Marek says legal fees shouldn't be the priority.

"We've got many more needs in the town," Marek said. "We have aging fire department rescue vehicles, we have aging public works vehicles that need repairs.

If the town doesn't use the money it's budgeting for legal, it could be moved back to the general fund.

More money for election

Other areas highlighted in the budget include:

The clerk-treasurer budget will increase by about $4,400 mainly for increases in the salary and wages category for the clerk-treasurer's office. It will increase by almost $8,800 from $104,800 to $113,600. This budget includes a clerk-treasurer, an assistant clerk and a deputy clerk.

The town is budgeting about $25,500 for the election budget — a $13,800 increase from 2013. The increase is due to more elections being held next year (besides two supervisor races that would include a spring primary and spring election, there is a partisan primary in August and general election in November).

Public Safety expenditures are increasing by about $31,000.

The major change includes about $22,330 more for the Fire Department primarily for approximately $15,000 more for salaries.

Snow, ice a priority

The Public Works portion of the 2014 budget is decreasing by just more than $103,000.

While the $701,700 it budgeted for in 2014 is less than 2013, it's still substantially greater than what it used in 2012 at $477,250. Money used for road repairs, culvert installation, ditching, snow/ice removal and street lighting have all increased in the last two years.

The highways and streets budget is decreasing by about $7,600, but the snow and ice removal budget is increasing by about $80,800.

"Snow removal is increasing as we're making the assumption that we may see a worse winter than last year," Marek said.

Less road repairs

Road repairs decreased from 2013 by close to $116,000. But the $145,000 for 2014 is still about $18,000 more than used in 2012.

Less crack filling (by about $30,000) is also in the budget. Marek said there was "a far amount of crack filling this year. We were trying to catch up this year."

The portion for ditching is decreasing by $40,000 after the town increased this line item from 2012 to 2013 by about $56,000. But Marek said the town didn't use most of the $50,000 it budgeted for in 2013 in ditching so it lowered the amount to $10,000 and rolled it back into the general fund for 2014.

Fire Dept. upgrades

The budget also includes items for future purchases — $80,000 for fire truck/equipment upgrades, $70,000 more than in 2013.

This item will be vetted during Thursday's Town Board meeting.

Finding a solution to the Town of Waukesha's septic system will also be a priority in 2014. Banske's request of putting $38,410 toward the replacement of the current system, which forces the aging tank to be pumped multiple times throughout the year, was approved for the capital outlay portion of the budget.

2014 Town Budget

Tax Levy: The town portion of taxes in 2014 is $1.6 million or a 0.30-percent increase from last year

Tax rate: $1.874 per $1,000 assessed value, meaning a homeowner with an assessed value of $242,800 (the median in the town) will pay about $455 in taxes in 2014

Total expenditures: $3.04 million

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