City Manager Cameron Clapper revealed Whitewater’s 2015 budget Tuesday night, a tax increase less than one percent from last year.
The city is expected to take in $9,472, 401 in 2015. This is a 0.98 percent increase from 2014’s $9,378,041. The three largest areas where the money will go are general government, public safety, and debt service and sinking funds.
Concerning general government, health insurance premiums were increased and there was an increase in the number of positions. Sixty-two Whitewater employees take advantage of the City’s health insurance program. The overall increase is expected to be $87,688 in additional costs for 2015.
Also under general government is the change in contingencies. $94,000 was allocated to Contingencies in order to meet the one percent minimum of the total annual budget. An additional $87,000 was allocated in anticipation to wage increases, pending the completion of the classification and compensation study underway. The study is expected to be completed in late 2014 or early 2015.
The two main areas the proposed budget will pull its revenue from are intergovernmental revenue and the property tax levy.
The property tax levy for 2015 is $2,499,974, an increase of $26,066 from 2014. Combined with a debt service tax levy of $571,760, the total tax levy is expected to be $3.07 million. The budget will see an increase of 1.80 percent from last year.
A new source of revenue, the UW-W Dispatch Payment, will provide an additional amount of $169,000. In 2014, the council approved the purchase of a new records management system for the police department. The department staff is now in the process of purchasing a system that will be compatible with systems currently used by UW-Whitewater and Walworth County. The compatibility will allow the City to sync data with Walworth County and UW-W. This reduces the duplication of law enforcement efforts in all three organizations. The amount of $169,000 is roughly 33 percent of the operation costs. The University will pay this to the City.
The council will begin reviewing department-specific budgets starting Tuesday, October 21. If approved, the budget will be implemented at the November 18 meeting.
In addition to learning about the new budget, the council also heard from school district representatives Eric Runez and Nathan Jaeger concerning the referendum for the Whitewater district. The referendum will cost $1.2 million per year for four years. This will provide protection for student support services, new technology, maintenance and more stable classroom sizes. A concern regarding the deficit is a “one step forward, two steps back” situation according to Runez. They have fewer pupil costs, but that’s due to a decline in enrollment. Sixty percent of Wisconsin districts are experiencing declining enrollment. Citizens will vote on the referendum on November 4.
In other action, the council heard from Police Chief Lisa Otterbacher and Officer Jim Elder regarding the new police cadet program. Otterbacher said the program has been added to their “goals list”. Elder was introduced as an officer who volunteered to build the program from scratch. The program has already received 26 applicants, but Elder said they’re looking for 12. These cadets will assist in traffic control, at police events and even with organized searches for non-violent people. Students must be enrolled in a criminal justice program, either at UW-W or nearby technical colleges. They must also have a 2.5 GPA, be 18-years-old and have no criminal record. Those selected will have a great opportunity to leave an impression with the department so when positions open up, they have the potential to be selected for hire.