Tax-hike budget heads to public hearing

Debt service, full-time firefighter factor into proposed Port rate increase
Ozaukee Press staff

Port Washington residents will get their chance to comment on the proposed 2019 budget when the Common Council meets at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 20.

The proposed budget is largely a status quo document, although it includes one additional full-time firefighter/paramedic for the fire department, City Administrator Mark Grams said.

“We’re at the point where, if we want to keep our service at the level it is, we will have to hire an additional full-time person,” Grams told the Common Council last week.

The proposed operating budget of $9.7 million is up 1.9% from last year’s $9.51 million budget.

The tax rate is expected to be $6.29 per $1,000 assessed valuation, an increase of 31 cents.

“The main reason for that is the debt service levy,” Grams said, noting 2019 will reflect “a one-year bump in principle and interest payments.”

After that, he said, the debt service will level off.

The proposed budget meets the council’s two main goals, Grams said — meeting the state levy limit and expenditure restraint program.

The overall levy of $5,747,309 meets the state’s levy limit of $5,747,514, Grams said, and includes $3,325,702 to support the general fund and $2,420,596 to cover the city’s debt service.

The expenditure restraint program, which provides the city with about $40,000 in additional state aid, set a maximum 3.9% increase in the expenditure budget for 2019, Grams said.

The city’s expenditures will only increase 1.78%, he said.

  The city anticipates a 3% water rate increase in 2019, Grams said, noting that this increase does not require approval from the Public Service Commission. Sewer rates are not expected to increase, he added.

The capital outlay budget will largely be funded from proceeds from the sale of city land for the Prairie’s Edge subdivision, Grams said.

“It’s going to be a little fluid,” he said, noting officials are working to create a priority list for capital items.

The budget does include $150,000 to replace the surface at Possibility Playground, Grams said, as well as $300,000 in firefighting equipment.

The department is seeking a grant to pay for the equipment, Grams said, and if it receives the funding that would free some money for other items.

The city has a $550,000 grant for improvements to the east end of the breakwater and is looking at cost estimates for the project, Grams said, adding the city needs to come up with matching funding for the work.

“I would hate to lose that money,” he said. “We have to keep that (project) cost at $1.1 million.”


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