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Milton Township board members look to trim the fat

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Stacy Vogel
November 10, 2007
— Gail Slepekis feels like she has an ally on the Milton Town Board since the spring elections.

Together, she and new board member Sue Gavigan have tried to reign in town spending, she said.


But two votes don’t get you far on a five-member board.


“There’s so many things we could do differently, but we can’t do it with a 2-3 vote,” Gavigan said.


That was the vote tally when the town budget passed in October. It will come before a public hearing Tuesday, Nov. 20.


The budget includes a 33-percent levy increase that Chairman Bryan Meyer says is necessary but Gavigan and Slepekis say is excessive.


Most of the increase will go to pay off debts, Meyer said. The town borrowed $92,000 in June to pay off old loans and finish scheduled highway projects, he said.


Although the state limits levy increases in 2008 to 3.86 percent, debt service doesn’t fall under the limit.


Meyer blames the town’s budgetary woes on the skyrocketing price of highway maintenance. Those costs have doubled in the last two to three years, he said.


The town also will pay an additional $65,000—a 42-percent increase—in fire department costs in 2008.


This isn’t the first time the town has asked for a large levy increase. Last year, town residents rejected areferendum asking for an 8 percent levy increase. At the public hearing later that year, they rejected a 42 percent levy increase in favor of a 3 percent increase.


“I don’t know how much louder the taxpayers have to speak to be heard,” Gavigan said.


Gavigan and Slepekis have a three-part plan for cutting expenses:


-- Put all highway projects up for bid among private contractors instead of relying on the Rock County Public Works Department. Other towns have saved thousands of dollars this way, they said.


-- Adjust the payment method for the Milton Joint Fire Department. Right now, the town and city of Milton each pay 50 percent of the department’s costs.


That might have been fair when the department formed 40 years ago, but annexation has eaten up property in the town, Gavigan said. Today, the town holds $257 million in assessed value, while the city holds $338 million.


“Something has got to change in our fire budget,” Gavigan said. “It’s nowhere near equal.”


-- Eliminate the town police department and court. Gavigan and Slepekis believe the Rock County Sheriff’s Department could handle most of the duties of the town’s four-man department. They estimate the town could save at least $9,000 a year by eliminating it.


Meyer opposes eliminating the police department, he said. As for the other two suggestions, the town could look into them in future years, but he said it’s too late to achieve them in 2008.


The fire commission, made of town and city representatives, already passed the department’s 2008 budget, and the town already has contracted with Rock County for highway projects in 2008, he said.


Those two expenses—fire protection and highway maintenance—make up the majority of the town’s taxable expenses, Meyer said, so he doesn’t see a way to make significant cuts to the tax levy.


If residents vote down the proposed levy increase, the town probably will do what it did this year: take out another loan to cover expenses, he said.


But it’s the town board’s job to find the cuts, Gavigan said.


“I don’t feel the board is doing their job by keep going to the taxpayers for more money,” she said.


“I truly believe that with some good hard work, which is what we’re supposed to do, we could get ourselves back on track.”


A look at the proposed 2008 budget for the town of Milton:


Total budget


Next year $815,000


This year $749,000


Increase 8.8%


Tax levy


Next year $326,000


This year $244,000


Increase 33.4%


Note: Percent changes calculated on whole numbers.



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