A discussion of governmental fiscal policy is usually as interesting to observe as watching grass grow in a drought.
Fiscal policy — spending decisions in the short term and the long term — came up in three different areas during the June 25 Platteville Common Council meeting.
Short-term spending came up during the comment period, when resident Rich Christensen questioned three recent city spending decisions funded by $19,700 in savings in the city’s 2013 assessor contract.
The Common Council voted to spend up to $7,500 to fund Platteville’s All America City finals entry, $5,800 on an IT needs assessment study, and $6,400 for a position at the Platteville Senior Center for the rest of this year.
Christensen said the All America City entry was “never an Information and Discussion item on the agenda.” He called the IT needs study, approved to evaluate connectivity problems with city computers, “just a waste of money,” and said the Senior Center position discussion had “red flags going up and all through the discussion, and no one asked any questions.”
“I don’t know how you’re going to get to the place you want to be if you’re going to waste money left and right,” said Christensen, mentioning the restoration of 40-hour work weeks for hourly city employees and proposed capital improvement projects. “If you keep wasting money and not thinking about it as you go along, I don’t think you’re going to meet those goals.”
The impact of spending decisions came up in the council’s work session on city budgets and taxes up to 2012.
The city ended up spending $7.89 million in general fund expenses in 2012, $310,043 less than was budgeted. The city spent $2.37 million on capital projects in 2012, $1.7 million less than was budgeted.
The work session also revealed revenues and expenses on the city’s five active Tax Incremental Financing districts at the end of 2012:
• TIF 4 (Platteville Industry Park): Revenues $157,549, expenses $49,484.
• TIF 5 (Keystone Development): Revenues $926,925, expenses $926,073.
• TIF 6 (Platteville Industry Park expansion): Revenues $183,415, expenses $300,909.
• TIF 7 (downtown): Revenues $1,973,943, expenses $2,339,155.
• TIF 8 (Park Place): Revenues $215,081, expenses $760,631.
In 2012, the five TIF districts’ revenue, including Downtown Redevelopment Authority revenues and expenses, exceeded expenses by $302,351. In 2013, the five TIF districts are projected to bring in and spend the same amount — $17.82 million.
The council also heard a review of the city’s annual audit from Johnson Block & Co.
In 2012 the city took in $17.67 million in revenues, up 15.3 percent from 2011, and spent $15.71 million, up 3.8 percent from 2011. The city’s current and capital assets totaled $108 million.
The governmental fund balance dropped from $5.82 million at the end of 2011 to $3.82 million at the end of 2012. The drop was attributed in the audit report in part to “excess expenditures over revenue … in the general fund, capital projects fund and the TIF District No. 7” totaling $1.51 million.
The general fund balance, “the main operating fund of the City of Platteville,” also dropped from $5.02 million at the end of 2011 to $3.99 million at the end of 2012. The general fund balance totals 15.4 percent of the general fund, below the city’s goal of 20 percent of the general fund.
Johnson Block noted the amount of city funding that comes from state shared revenues is twice as large as for similar-size cities in Wisconsin. JohnsonBlock called shared revenue “a riskier source of revenue” because it is determined by the state Legislature.
The city has $15.9 million in general obligation debt, 58 percent of allowable debt under state law.
The audit report can be read at http://188.8.131.52:8080/City%20Council/2013-6-25/III.A.%202012%20Audited%20Financial%20Statements.pdf.