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Will Milton tax rates be late?

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NEIL W. JOHNSON
November 15, 2011
— By tonight, Milton residents could know what the city's new tax levy will be.

They could know how much revenue the city plans to bring in and how much the city plans to spend.


But it could be a while before residents learn what it all will cost them in taxes.


The Wisconsin Department of Revenue confirmed Monday that it's late sending municipalities assessments for manufacturing properties.


The result: Even though the council's ready to move forward considering the city's 2012 tax levy, it doesn't have enough information to calculate what the new tax rate would be. It can guess but literally can't tell residents for sure what their tax bills could be.


City Administrator Jerry Schuetz said he's been told the delay stems from computer problems at the Department of Revenue, although the department has not confirmed any problems.


In an email Monday, Department of Revenue spokeswoman Stephanie Marquis wrote that the department "typically begins issuing the statements of assessments to the (state's) 1,851 municipalities in late October, and they are issued in batches."


"We will begin to issue them again this year within a week," Marquis wrote, but she did not give a reason why the assessments are delayed.


Municipalities' tax rates—the figures that determine how much residents and businesses pay in property taxes—are based on an aggregate of assessed values for residential, commercial and manufacturing properties.


Municipalities assess residential and commercial properties themselves, but the Department of Revenue is in charge of assessing manufacturing properties.


The city is taking its budget to a public hearing earlier than usual.


It usually holds the hearing near the end of November, but Schuetz said the city planned the hearing early to give staff time to make any possible further cuts or changes before the end of the month.


In the absence of a total possible tax rate, Schuetz said, the city estimates residential taxpayers will have a "cost of living" increase of 1.8 percent. That estimate is based on commercial and home assessments and anticipated costs of city services.


Meanwhile, Schuetz confirmed Monday that the city is in talks with 10 union-represented city public works employees over a proposed health insurance change.


The city is asking the union to switch from a state health insurance carrier to a Mercy Health System plan. Other city workers, including union-represented police officers and non-union city employees, already made the insurance switch earlier this year.


Schuetz said the union has not moved on the city's proposal, but it plans to take the proposal to its membership today. He said the union also could opt to switch to a carrier other than Mercy, although under the city's proposal it would have to be a similarly-priced plan.


The change, which is already written into next year's budget, will save the city $60,000, according to city estimates.


The public works union settled its labor contract in January 2011, prior to Gov. Scott Walker's austerity bill taking effect. The law strips public union workers of most of their collective bargaining rights.


The union had been hesitant to reopen its contract to make any concessions because it feared the new law would nullify the contract, Schuetz has said.


But state Rep. Evan Wynn's "budget flexibility" bill, which was signed into law last week, would allow the union to reopen and renegotiate its contract without the risk of nullifying it, officials say.


MILTON CITY BUDGET

A look at the proposed 2012 budget for the city of Milton:


Highlights: The Milton City Council is presenting a 4.7 percent tax levy increase. The council and city staff have worked in recent months to cut $300,000 from the city budget. About $107,000 in cuts came through concessions to city employee compensation through Gov. Scott Walker's budget repair bill and a proposed health care change for city employees. The cuts worked to pare a potential $420,000 budget gap and a possible 18 percent tax levy increase—both of which arose amid revenue losses, including $120,000 in anticipated cuts to state shared revenue—and because of new expenses including debt on a new public works garage and a new fire department vehicle.


What's next? The city council today will hold a public hearing and consider setting the new tax levy.


Total budget


Next year $4.02 million


This year $4.06 million


Decrease 1.03%


Tax levy


Next year $2.47 million


This year $2.36 million


Increase 4.7%


Tax rate


(Per $1,000 of assessed valuation)


Next year NA *


This year $7.11


Increase/Decrease NA *


Note: Percent changes calculated on whole numbers.


*Milton city staff reports it cannot calculate next year's proposed tax rate because it has not received assessments on manufacturing properties from the Wisconsin Department of Revenue.



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