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Greenfield holds to a tight city budget

But police and library will get a little more help; trees won't

Oct. 8, 2013

Greenfield — The Common Council is just beginning its review of the mayor's 2014 proposed budget, which calls for a 0.86 percent property tax levy increase.

Mayor Mike Neitzke's nearly $46.7 million budget, with a $22.2 million property tax levy, would add a police officer and increase library funding, but otherwise, it's pretty much status quo package, he said.

"We're not expanding and we're not reducing anything," Neitzke said.

Modest concessions

But there was a need to address certain problems from a fiscal standpoint.

Neitzke explained that Greenfield police are running too lean for the good of the department, which currently lacks the flexibility it needs to meet demands.

"The Police Department needs help," Neitzke said. "Overtime is sort of killing us. ... We need the flexibility of another officer."

He also added $78,714 to the proposed $1 million library budget next year, because "our library tends to be one of the lowest funded in the state," he said.

The proposed budget contains 2 percent raises for union and nonunion employees, although the city is negotiating with the police and fire unions, the only unions remaining, about how that money will be distributed.

Health premiums will be up 9.9 percent next year, Neitzke said, with about seven of those percentage points due to policy upgrades requried by the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

No money tree

But Neitzke resisted adding to the budget, even in areas where some costs might seem justified. That included the city's tree budget.

Despite the likelihood that the city might start to lose trees to the devastating emerald ash borer, the tree replacement budget, which was cut in half to about $8,000 three years ago, remains at same level.

Neitzke acknowledged that the borer will take a tremendous toll on city trees, but, "the reality is budgets are very tight ...You have to make choices."

Fortunately, the state aid picture improved, with the city getting more transportation aid than expected. Word of that came Friday, and, as of early this week, Neitzke was still deciding how the extra dollars would impact the 2014 spending plan. Otherwise, state aid has remained stable, he said.

Controlling costs and debt

The city has done a good job keeping costs down, Neitzke said, noting that in a study by the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance of 2010 spending, Greenfield was lower in per capita spending than the statewide average — $750 locally compared to $838 per person statewide.

Greenfield's per capita spending for police was $167 compared with $226 statewide.

Greenfield taxpayers really got a break in the area of debt, paying less than half what taxpayers did on average statewide. Greenfield's spending for debt was $795 per person compared with $1,533 statewide.

Neitzke also emphasized that the city's portions of tax bills amounts to only 27 or 28 cents out of every property tax dollar. The rest is levied by the school districts, Milwaukee County, the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District, MATC and the state.

AT A GLANCE

Proposed budget figures likely changed somewhat for the Finance and Human Resources Committee consideration on Wedensday, due to a last-minute information that state transportation aid will be higher than expected. As of press time, the mayor was still deciding how that would impact the 2014 proposed spending plan of:

Total proposed 2014 budget: $46,682,413

2013 total budget: $46,338,324

Difference: up $344,089, or 0.7 percent

Proposed 2014 general fund (operating budget): $24,897,974

2013 general fund: $24,404,556

Difference: up $493,418, or 2 percent

2014 proposed levy: $22,185,201

2013 levy: $21,995,447

Difference: up $189,754, or 0.86 percent

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