The Platteville Common Council is beginning work on the city’s 2014 budget this week.
Even though the city’s general fund is projected to decrease 1.2 percent to levels not seen since 2008, according to City Manager Larry Bierke, the property tax levy is projected to increase 2.5 percent.
One reason is that, unlike last year and other years, the city’s fund balance is not being used to support the operating budget.
About 42 percent of the city’s tax levy is also going for capital improvements, up from 34 percent in 2013. That will reduce borrowing from 61 percent of capital improvement funding to 52 percent in 2014.
Fees are increasing, including a $25 increase in rental fees. However, the portion of the budget called “Public Charges for Services” — covering such things as pool rental, open gym and recreational sports — is slated to decrease $85.
The budget increase that may get the most attention is the restoration of a 40-hour work week for city employees. The 2012 and 2013 city budgets included reductions of hourly employee work from 40 hours per week to 37 hours per week, accompanied by closing the Municipal Building on Fridays.
Bierke noted the 2013 election, in which two new aldermen were elected “whom many perceived ran on returning the city to a 40-hour work week,” wrote Bierke in his budget message. “Based on the results of the election, I find it the public’s desire to return employees to a 40-hour work week.”
Adding three hours per week per hourly employee is projected to add $93,311 to the city budget. The budget also includes a proposal for nine furlough days for city employees.
The cost to restore 40-hour work weeks is dwarfed by a projected 10 percent increase in health insurance costs for city employees.
“To put things in perspective, the city’s proposed total tax levy is $3,748,718,” said Bierke. “This means that when residents pay the City of Platteville portion of their property taxes, 20.5 percent of that money goes to pay for staff health insurance premiums.”
One planned revenue increase that won’t happen in 2014 is an increase in the city’s garbage utility charge. The charge, $60 per household and $120 per duplex, was instituted in 2013, and was planned to be doubled in 2014.
Instead, wrote Bierke, “The State of Wisconsin … has incorporated the addition of certain revenues to the levy limit law. It no longer makes sense for the city to look at increasing the garbage fee, or creating a stormwater utility, as those fees would now have to be considered as part of the city’s levy limit.”
The 2014 budget includes $2.47 million in capital spending, down from $3.27 million in 2013.
One cut likely to be controversial is reducing funding for the Rollo Jamison and Mining museums from $257,283 down to $190,000. The city is considering the recommendations of the Museum Task Force, one of which was to reduce museum funding from the estimated $250,000 per year, but not until 2015.
The budget also includes no funding from the city's operating budget for four economic development organizations that have been getting city funding — the Platteville Area Industrial Development Corp., which got $15,000 in 2013; the Grant County Economic Development Corp, which got $14,368; the Main Street Program, which got $7,500; and the Platteville Business Incubator, which got $5,000. Funding for those organizations is coming instead from Tax Incremental Financing District revenue.
The city manager’s administrative assistant position is projected to be cut from three-fourths time to half-time. The first draft of the budget also eliminates a part-time position added earlier this year at the Platteville Senior Center.
A work session with city department heads was held this week. The budget will be discussed at Tuesday's Common Council meeting, and another budget meeting is planned for October.
The budget can be read at http://platteville.org/?post=8333.