Whitewater approves tax-rate increase in 2018 budget as revenue stays limited

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Jonah Beleckis
Wednesday, November 22, 2017

WHITEWATER—The Whitewater City Council on Tuesday approved a tax-rate increase as part of its final 2018 budget.

The 2018 tax rate for Whitewater residents in Walworth County would increase by less—1.44 percent—than for those in Jefferson County—3.51 percent—when compared to 2017 rates. Walworth County residents will pay $6.07 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.

The overall 2018 budget increased to $9.31 million from $9.20 million in 2017, a 1.17 percent increase.

The tax levy increased by 3.77 percent to $3.47 million for 2018.

No one spoke during the public hearing portion for the budget at Tuesday night's meeting.

The only discussion about the budget was when city staff and council members thanked each other for their involvement in making the budget process a smooth one.

Looking forward, City Manager Cameron Clapper and first-year Finance Director Steve Hatton identified some budget concerns in the full budget packet.

Limited funding sources: With a “very small number of revenue streams” for government operations, the city is running out of ways to make money. To cover, the city has to rely on property taxes, according to the packet.

“With levy limits in place, and few new residential or commercial developments, the property tax in Whitewater has been unable to keep up with the demand for services,” city officials wrote. “The need for increased revenue either by way of a referendum or through alternative funding strategies is increasing.”

City wages: Officials wrote in the budget packet that they are aiming to keep wages for city staff competitive, even if they are not the highest in the region.

“There is a genuine need to identify new revenues to fund this effort,” officials wrote.

Water system study: In 2017, the water utility commissioned a study that showed a need to replace one water reservoir and five “significant” water main projects in the next decade, according to the packet.

The estimated cost for completing these projects is $7.34 million, which would require a 53 percent increase in rates.

To tackle the projects over time, the city included a 3 percent water-rate increase in 2018. The city will require the same increase annually for the next 18 years, officials wrote.

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