2015 Executive Budget: Investing In South Milwaukee’s Future

The 2015 executive budget will be published this week, and I’m proud to be a part of it for the first time as mayor.

It continues to fund our first-class city services while delivering real savings that we’re reinvesting for the future and using to enhance our work in some key areas, especially economic development.

You can read the proposed budget here. Some highlights …

  • Revenues are proposed to increase 5.2% from the 2014 budget to 9.2 million. This is primarily due to an increase in state transportation aids and due to our treatment of debt service, as we reflect debt service payments our utilities make to the general fund as a revenue to offset the correlating expense.
  • Total expenses are proposed to decrease 0.25% to $18.6 million. Not including debt service, the decrease in expenditures is 4.3%. These savings include significant general fund savings driven by the city’s move to a deductible health plan. The decrease is also driven by the shifting of fire hydrant rental costs from the tax levy to water/sewer bills. This shift counts toward our state-imposed levy limit, so this is not “new money” we can raise through taxation.
  • The tax levy is proposed to decrease 5% to $10 million, due again primarily to the one-time shift in fire hydrant expenses.
  • The city’s net new construction growth from 2013 to 2014 was +.509%. Therefore, the city’s levy can grow by just that amount. The budget meets that limit, which applies to the city’s tax levy, excluding post-2005 debt service payments.

The proposed budget makes significant investments in our people and fills important gaps in the delivery of city services.

Included in the budget are three new part-time positions that are funded predominately by cost savings and shifting of existing funds. All of them are necessary steps to move South Milwaukee forward and better deliver our services, and I’m excited to add them.

  • First, the budget includes funding for someone to lead our economic development efforts. This half-time position would be funded predominantly with money previously appropriated to the Community Development Authority and contributions from our tax incremental financing districts. This will be our go-to person inside City Hall when it comes to attracting and retaining local business, marketing our city and driving our downtown redevelopment efforts.  It’s a position long overdue for South Milwaukee, and I am convinced he or she will pay immediate dividends.
  • We are also recommending the creation of an urban forestry position in the Street Department, to be funded primarily through changes to the self-deposit station hours. In the proposed budget, the station would remain open year-round on Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday (our three busiest days).  This has been the schedule for December 1 through March 31 for the last couple of years. The change would free up 16 man-hours that we would use toward coordinating our street tree program — training a person to help us move from being focused on tree removal to creating an actual urban forestry program that includes replanting and other measures aimed at being good stewards of our city’s canopy. 
  • The final position would enhance our human resources capability, by shifting duties inside the administration department and creating a new clerical position for engineering and the mayor.

The budget also includes $30,000 — $15,000 carrying over from 2014 and $15,000 for 2015 – for planning. These are dollars we plan to use to update our comprehensive plan … and take a deep dive into downtown planning. Stay tuned for more information on that.

Also, the budget calls for a 2% salary increase for all employees, in addition to automatic annual increases through seniority-driven steps, for eligible employees. The raise includes our public safety workers. The current fire labor agreement includes a “wage reopener” to be negotiated by the end of 2014. The police agreement — which the council approved earlier this week but still requires police union ratification — includes the 2% increase.

I would like to know what you think of the proposed budget. Post your comments here, or weigh in at one of our upcoming meetings. The budget will officially be published in the NOW newspaper on Oct. 30., with a public hearing on Nov. 24. The city council then meets Nov. 25 to consider adoption of the document.

I also want to thank City Administrator Tami Mayzik, City Clerk Jim Shelenske, and all the department heads for their work in preparing this budget. These are the people, and their teams, who bring these numbers to life, leading the way in delivering our city services. Also, thank you to Finance Committee Chairman Ald. Joe Bukowski and Vice Chairman Ald. Pat Stoner for their work in producing this document and providing strong oversight of this process.

My pledge: To continue to be a responsible steward of your money, while finding ways to invest in our city services and build a stronger South Milwaukee. This executive budget is a good start — a real step toward South Milwaukee’s promising future.


Filed under 2015 Budget, South Milwaukee

21 responses to “2015 Executive Budget: Investing In South Milwaukee’s Future

  1. Maria and Jim

    Dear Mayor Erik, Thanks for these updates and sharing what has been happening. We can’t be at council meetings, so these updates let us know what is happening. When we had our local little paper years ago, we could read about it there. Electronic media use helps us these days.
    keep up the good job,
    M&J Fischbach

  2. Bryan Lorentzen

    Nice job. I hope the city employees realize how fortunate that they are to get a raise in this economic environment.
    Continue the great work!

  3. Lisa Pieper

    A thank you shout out to Alderperson Bukowski, Finance Chairperson.

  4. Marge Lower 1701 Elm Ave

    Thanks for all you do, I knew when I put your sign in my yard you would be a winner. I wish there was something I could do to make this a better place to live. Bringing in new businesses and stores to shop would be a great asset.

    Marge Lower

  5. Kim

    Erik, Do you know if our city is a member of ICLEI?

  6. Frank Gratke

    Not in favor of creating positions , the problem you have is getting the new or present staff trained. It takes a lot to understand the complex issues a old industrial city that South Milwaukee is facing. Issues such as Including envioronmental, sewers, DNR rules, federal funding programs , civil rights issues, education, Historical Preservation There is not a text book that can train people.

    Frank “Disco” G

  7. SM Guy

    Here’s hoping that the new economic development person is on-board soon so that they can have some input into the St. Adelbert’s site development. I would hope that a person whose primary responsibility is revitalizing downtown and attracting new business there (or for that matter somebody who campaigned on that issue) would have ideas about how the usage of that site might affect businesses looking to relocate in the area. Would the small shops that would fit downtown see advantages of residential property being expanded for low-income / affordable housing or would other uses be more appropriate to help the area recover more – especially with the constant fears about CAT closing up?

  8. Bob

    What is the Fire Hydrant rental fee you mention ? Is this part of our taxes ?
    Aren’t hydrants part of the water dept system ? Why is their a rental fee ?

  9. Bob

    You also said that city employees are paying a share of their health insurance now. What is the monthly employee share for single / family plan. .. I think what they pay should be comparable to other employers in the area.

    • Bob: Employees have for some time paid a portion of their insurance premiums. Our comparisons show that cost is comparable with other public employers. The change for 2015 is they will now be required to pay a deductible — $500 for those with the single-coverage plan and $1,000 for families.

  10. Theresa

    I’m concerned about the lack of hours at the city dump during the summer months. The city dump is very busy during the summer. That is going to be a lot more work and frustration for the person running the dump. I’ve been in line when the person had to temporarily close the dump to exchange the compactor box. I heard all the nasty complaining.

  11. Melissa

    I’m concerned if you limit the summer hours of the dump as weel. I already get mad when I have a day off from work and do some yard work only to realize that the dump is not open. I came from Milwaukee where the dump is open all the time even in the winter.

  12. Bob SM

    I’m sorry, but moving the fire hydrant rental from the tax levy to the sewer bills is simply robbing Peter to pay Paul. The taxpayers of South Milwaukee are still paying for this, whether it’s called a “Fee” or a “Tax”. Making it a fee allows you to increase our taxes without increasing the tax levy. Will my property taxes drop by the same amount that my water bill increases? If that happens, then I’ll admit I’m wrong. If that doesn’t happen it means that this was removed from the levy to make room for additional taxes.

    • Good question. Yes, communities do use fees to pay for items that also have been “covered” under property taxes (snow removal, garbage pickup, etc.). That is not the case here. While I can’t make any promises on individual tax bills, our overall tax levy is shrinking in 2015 because of this decision. Also, in the aggregate, the amount of money homeowners pay for this service should be less because of the shift we made. Why? Because by making it a fee, we are spreading the cost across all property owners, including those who don’t pay property taxes. The average annual fee for homeowners is expected to be $78.36.

      • Frank Gratke

        The difference of a fee on my water bill and an item on my property taxes is the deduction of my state and federal income taxes. Roughly 30% or $24 dollar difference on $78 dollars. This an another example that the book of how to run a city is not out there. Your heart is the right place it is just your experience needs to catch up with it. .
        Frank “Disc” G

  13. trkstr31

    Current state law actually requires that the city decrease the levy by the same amount as the new fee on the water bill. The benefit to us, the property tax payers, is that the “hydrant rental fee” will now be divided by more people/groups/organizations helping to pay it, resulting in a smaller share for each payer than previously.

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