The 2013 City of South Milwaukee budget has been published, and you can see it here.
Like the previous three budgets I’ve been a part of, I am proud to support it because it’s reflective of the difficult times we’re in, and includes only a responsibly small increase in the tax levy. It maintains city services and the staffing necessary to deliver them – while, at the same time, it gives us a chance to recognize our city workers with a small, and well-deserved, pay raise.
So on to the highlights:
- Expenditures are projected to decrease 3.78% to $18.4 million, down from $19.1 million budgeted in 2012. This figure reflects a significant reduction in debt service payments (for debt issued before 2005). Our expenditures fall below the threshold necessary to receive our “expenditure restraint payment” (ERP) from the state – anticipated to be $359,716 in 2013. The formula used to determine whether or not a community is eligible for ERP does not include debt service payments.
- Revenues are expected to decrease 8.34% from $9.3 million to $8.6 million. This figure is also reflective of reductions in debt service, with big decreases seen in the amount of money being transferred from funds set up to pay off debt related to tax incremental financing districts and water, wastewater and stormwater utilities.
- The city property tax levy is proposed to go up 1%, from $10,447,430 to $10,551,728. I think this is a reasonable and responsible increase that is well under our state-imposed levy limit (when factoring in debt service) and reflective of the fact that costs go up every year. Tax rate information is not yet available.
- The budget does not include a transfer of any funds from our reserve accounts to “buy down” the levy, as we’ve done in recent years. This will allow us to build that fund back up in case we need it in future years – and, from the looks of it, we may need it.
- Staffing is staying level in 2013, significant because further cuts in people mean reductions in services, and “people costs” make up approximately 85% of our budget.
- State aid (shared revenue, local transportation aids, recycling funds, etc.) are expected to stay about the same in 2013 as in 2012 because of the nature of the state’s biennial budget – recognizing that the state made major cuts in those aids last year. So we’re not close to being made whole to where we were in 2011. And I’m worried about 2014.
- The County Executive’s proposed to leave the county paramedic funding flat in 2013 – but this, too, was slashed last year. The County Board is proposing to increase the funding but not to restore it to the 2011 level. We’ve made up the loss with fund balance, but this is not sustainable, and we face some tough decisions about our paramedic program if additional funding is not restored in coming years.
The budget includes salary increases for non-represented workers. For our 59 civil service (non-supervisory) workers, the increase is 2.4%. For our 31 non-represented employees, it’s 3%.
I support this funding for several reasons. First of all, we provide first-class services in South Milwaukee, and we should reward our people for good work when we can (and sometimes we can’t).
Secondly, it’s a fairness issue. Police officers and firefighters are receiving pay raises in 2013, per their recently negotiated contracts (2% January 1 and 1% July 1). Our civil service employees — who have curtailed collective bargaining due to Act 10 — and our non-represented employees deserve the same, especially because many of the workers have not seen a salary increase in at least a year and a half (for civil service employees) or two years (for non-represented employees). This has occurred as pension and health care contributions have increased.
And as for supervisors, our city administrator crunched the numbers and found that, even with the raises, their average take-home pay in 2013 would be significantly less than it was in 2009, due to benefit givebacks, pay freezes and other factors. When we can shrink that gap, we should. And we can in 2013. Who knows what 2014 will look like?
The budget will be the topic of a public hearing starting at 6 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 26, at City Hall. The City Council then meets the next night to likely approve the document.
Of course, I’d like to know what you think before then. Post your comments below!