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First Platteville city budget contains no mil rate increase
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PLATTEVILLE — City of Platteville residents will have three opportunities in the next week to learn more and comment about the city’s 2013 budget.

The first is to read the budget online at

The second is to attend a Common Council work session on the budget scheduled for Thursday at 6 p.m.

The third is to comment at the council’s regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday at 7 p.m. Public comment will be last on the agenda.

The proposed budget has the same tax rate as the city’s 2012 budget, $7.2262 per $1,000 assessed valuation. The owner of a house assessed at $125,000 pays $903.28 in city property taxes. The proposed 1.01-percent general-fund spending increase and 1.9-percent tax levy increase is covered by the estimated city equalized-value increase of 2.16 percent.

The city’s property value is being increased by the closing of Tax Incremental Financing District 3, adding $10 million to the city’s property value. The city is also receiving $50,000 in a Payment in Lieu of Taxes for UW–Platteville’s new Rountree Commons.

“After 10 years of budgeting, it is safe to say that this budget has by far been the most interesting to put together,” said City Manager Larry Bierke. “It has been a roller coaster of challenges, good and bad.”

One example of the latter is the decrease in state municipal-service aid, aid communities with state facilities — in Platteville’s case, UW–Platteville — get for police, fire, EMS and road services. The state cut the 2012 payment of $480,153 nearly in half to $243,162 in 2013.

On the other hand, the state increased transportation aids 15 percent, from $589,928 in 2012 to $678,417 in 2013.
“The more we spend on street work, the more aid we get from the state,” said Bierke.

The 2013 budget includes $250,000 more in capital spending than the 2012 budget. The budget includes the replacement of Stonebridge Avenue and work on parts of Fourth Street, Broadway and Evergreen Road, the latter assuming a state grant covering half of the cost is approved.

“We’ve had time to get road work done prior to reaching our borrowing capacity,” said Bierke.

The 2013 budget is funded in part by $254,270 from reserves, down from $358,249 in 2012.

“The city is getting healthier and is better prepared for the future than it was before this budget,” said Bierke, noting the decrease in city fund balance reserves to fund operational expenses, and increasing funding for future capital projects.

One of the two most major changes from the 2012 budget to the 2013 budget are a shift of half of garbage collection costs onto single- and two-family-home property tax bills as a separate listing. The change is estimated to raise $148,950. If approved, the rest of garbage collection costs would be added to property tax bills next year.

The other major change is in the status of the Rollo Jamison Museum and Mining Museum. If the city council approves, the museum would shift from being part of the city to being operated by a nonprofit organization with a city grant of $220,000.

If approved, the city would lease the museum property to the nonprofit organization. “Assets remain property of the city and may not be sold without city permission,” said Bierke in the budget foreword.

But, said District 2 Ald. Barb Daus, “I just wonder in the time allowed if that’s even a feasible proposal.”

Common Council President Mike Dalecki listed six essential city services — police, fire, EMS, roads, water and sewer, and garbage disposal — and said, “After that, it’s all up for grabs. … Should we be trying to do everything for everybody?”

The 2013 budget continues the 37½-hour work week for city employees, first instituted this year, with the Municipal Building still closed on Fridays.

Other changes from the city’s 2012 budget include:

•    City departments are spending $156,808 less than in 2012. “Some of these are savings you’re not going to be happy with, but we have to talk about them,” said Bierke.

•    As part of the city’s staffing reduction plan, the city’s Utility Billing Department is being combined with the city Finance Department.

•    The city manager’s salary is being cut $5,000.

•    The Family Aquatic Center is closing Mondays to save $8,600.

•    The budget includes $15,000 for a study on the consolidation of police dispatch services with Grant County.

•    $5,000 each is being cut from the city’s contributions to the Main Street Program, Platteville Area Industrial Development Corporation, Platteville Business Incubator Inc. and Grant County Economic Development Corporation.

Daus noted that at a council strategic planning session in July, “the number one priority, I wrote down, was economic development. If we’re going to put our money where our mouth is, why are we cutting economic development partnerships?”

The first public comment on the budget as a whole came from Marilyn Gottschalk, 235 Virgin Ave.

“We truly need to be in all of this together and we need to get through this with the least amount of damage possible,” she said, asking the council “if some effort could be made to communicate with people besides just those who come to the council meetings. There is a philosophy that if you educate the people they come to the right decisions.”