Error causes big tax levy increase
Numbers for the 2010 budget show a 37 percent increase in the tax levy, but those numbers include additional money to compensate for a cut in state aid as a result of a paperwork error.
Town Chairman Ron Fero said the town planned to increase its tax levy from $226,810 in 2008 to $283,364 in 2009, or about 25 percent, to cover skyrocketing costs of road maintenance.
The town got permission from voters to exceed the 2.9 percent state-imposed levy limit and submitted its paperwork to the state, he said.
Fero said the town mailed tax bills and collected much of the money.
The town suddenly received a notice from the state indicating a problem with the levy, he said. The town re-sent the paperwork and talked to state officials, but the state still would not recognize the levy-increase approval, he said. The state also docked the town $50,000 in aid to be split over 2009 and 2010.
Fero said the town had to go through the whole process again.
"We had to figure out the budget again, start at the lowest point ($226,810 in 2008) and add that $50,000 (planned tax levy increase from 2008 to 2009) plus some of the money the state docked us," he said. "That's where that 30-something percent comes from.
"It looks like a horrible percentage, but it isn't."
Fero said the town now plans to increase its tax levy to $310,395 in 2010, or about a 37 percent increase over 2008. He said voters again—after hearing the convoluted story—gave the town permission to exceed the levy limit.
"We tried to do this right from the start," he said. "We were pretty frustrated about it. But we just couldn't believe the state wouldn't give us a chance."
Fero said the town does not spend money foolishly and had built up savings, which helped offset the loss of state aid as a result of the paperwork error.
He said other towns can learn from the situation in Whitewater Township. He said if a town is planning to exceed the state-imposed levy limit, it should do its homework—and double-check everything to avoid getting in the same pickle.