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Whitewater aims to cut budget up to 4 percent

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Kevin Hoffman
November 2, 2011
— Faced with lower state revenue next year, the Whitewater City Council is expected to vote later this month on a budget that cuts spending for nearly every municipal department.

The city council began reviewing the 2012 budget last month and continued Tuesday night. A vote setting the budget and tax levy could come as early as Nov. 15.


City Manager Kevin Brunner said the goal heading into next year was to reduce expenses by up to 4 percent. Whitewater expected to lose nearly $219,000 after passage of the state budget, which reduced its shared revenue, transportation aids and other allowances.


Higher contributions to retirement and employee insurance will offset nearly three-quarters of that amount.


“The departments worked really hard on reducing expenses,” Brunner said. “My goal, because we knew we were losing state revenue, was to cut up to 4 percent.”


If the current budget is approved, the Walworth County portion of the city will pay a slight increase in its property tax rate. The bulk of Whitewater’s 14,390 residents live in Walworth County, but the city crosses into Jefferson County to the north.


Jefferson County residents could see a 10-cent decrease in their property tax rate, depending on what the city council ultimately approves. Brunner said the reason for the discrepancy between counties is because Walworth County “has a slightly higher percentage of the total city tax base, and levy apportionment has shifted accordingly.”


The proposal includes no change in the $2.4 million property tax levy, but the total levy jumps to $2.85 million when including the total debt service.


Brunner said there were exceptions for some departments that found it difficult to make cuts in their spending. Fire and EMS calls jumped 20 percent this year, street lighting costs increased and the looming presidential election next fall meant those respective departments needed flexibility in their expenses.


The height of the 2012 election could cost the city an additional $35,000, Brunner said.


The city council heard budget presentations from various departments Tuesday, including the police budget. Police Chief Lisa Otterbacher proposed restructuring department staff, adding the position of a police captain while removing one of the lieutenants.


The move would save the department an estimated $16,045, she said.


WHITEWATER’S 2012 BUDGET

Highlights: The proposal includes a 4 percent budget reduction for nearly every department.


What’s next?: The city council is hearing budget presentations in various parts throughout October and November. A public hearing and approval of the budget and tax levy could come as early as Nov. 15.


Total budget


Next year $9.13 million


This year $9.26 million


Decrease 1.4%


Tax levy


Next year $2.40 million


This year $2.40 million


Increase None


Tax rate


(Per $1,000 of assessed valuation in Walworth County portion)


Next year $5.23


This year $5.21


Increase 0.4%


(Per $1,000 of assessed valuation in Jefferson County portion)


Next year $5.22


This year $5.32


Decrease 1.9%


Note: Percent changes calculated on whole numbers.



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