The proposed 2019 city budget includes a 3.5% decrease in the property tax levy, driven in large part by a reduction in city debt.
And while I’m happy to potentially deliver a tax cut, the budget does not change the economic realities we continue to face — marked by restrictive state levy limits and other mandates that make it more and more difficult to fund our first-class city services.
You can see a draft summary of the proposed budget here.
A public hearing on the budget is set for 6 p.m. this Monday, Nov. 20, with the South Milwaukee City Council expected to vote on it the following night, with that meeting set for 7 p.m. Of note …
- The version of the budget being discussed on Monday differs slightly from the budget published last month. As if often the case, we were able to refine some of the numbers to get more clarity on certain revenues and expenditures.
- It includes a 2.4% reduction in expenditures, to just shy of $20 million, and a 1.05% decrease in revenues.
- The decrease in the levy stems from a reduction in our debt. Our 2018 debt payments were just over $4 million; in 2019, they are projected to be just over $3.6 million, with our levy being reduced by the $462,871 difference.
- Levy limits continue to hamstring us, and hundreds of communities across the state. For the 11th straight year, our “net new construction” figure measured less than 1%; this year it was 0.3%, meaning we were only able to increase our levy by approximately $22,000. This is obviously not sustainable.
- The budget reflects the referendum passed in 2017, and segregated the extra $616,641 in revenue to support the sustained funding of our paramedic program and the hiring of two new police officers. We feel it’s important to segregate the funds this way to ensure taxpayers can see the additional revenue is being spent in exactly the way we said it would. We will continue to deliver this transparency.
- The proposed budget also includes 2% pay raises for employees.
- Health insurance costs continue to rise at a high rate. Our initial renewal came back at +9%, but we have negotiated that down to a more manageable increase of 3.9% — still an additional $223,000 in costs to the city.
- The budget includes no expenditure restraint payment for 2019, typically more than $300,000 for us. This is due to increased expenditures following the referendum result. We expect to once again receive that payment in 2020.
- We are also anticipating state transportation aids to decrease by $24,000.
We remain committed to being good stewards of your money — it’s our most important job. And I welcome your thoughts on the 2019 budget.