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Geneva Town Board proposes trimmed-down budget


Chairman shows worry over not raising tax rate yet another year



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November 23, 2010 | 08:48 AM
Geneva — If the proposed 2011 budget is approved as-is, it will be the fourth consecutive year the town's tax rate will be $1.91 per $1,000 of assessed value.

That means the owner of a $200,000 home will pay $382 in taxes for town services. Additional portions of a town taxpayer's bill go toward the state, Walworth County, Gateway Technical College and local school districts.

But in an e-mail statement Thursday, Nov. 18, Town Chairman Dan Lauderdale discussed the pros and cons of keeping the tax rate the same four years in a row.

"I did caution the board that a fourth consecutive year without a tax increase may cause a great burden upon the budgetary process next year," Lauderdale said. "However, the majority of those supervisors present at our workshops insisted that we not increase taxes due to the state of the economy."

He said he believes increasing the tax rate "in small increments would have made more sense than what could prove to be a substantial increase next year."

However, Lauderdale said the supervisors asked to maintain the $1.91 tax rate "and I delivered."

For the short term, it may mean one less unpleasant surprise when town taxpayers open their tax bills.

"Costs have not gone down, but our ability to remain fiscally responsible over the past four years has proven to be a huge benefit to those whom we serve during these tough economic times," Lauderdale said.

Enter the 2011 budget

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Overall, there's an 8.1 percent cut in the proposed budget, from $3.11 million to $2.86 million.

Several areas were slashed, including public safety expenditures, which went from $1.13 million to $941,100.

According to Lauderdale, the Police Department's part-time wage category was cut by $12,000 because the replacements for former police chief Ed Gritzner and former Sgt. Robert Haase are expected to be in place by next June.

"That will decrease the need for part-time officers and hopefully increase the projected revenue generated by way of fines and forfeitures during 2011, when the Police Department is once again back to full staff," Lauderdale said.

He said there has been some headway made toward reducing the amount the town pays to the Lake Geneva Fire Department for service.

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"As many may have read, I have tried relentlessly to address the cost of the rental agreement with Lake Geneva for providing these service to the town over the past year," Lauderdale said. "It is with great pleasure that we have now reached a much more reasonable agreement with Lake Geneva over charges for residents and the town for those services."

He said the savings is nearly $45,000.

"I had hoped that we could have devoted this savings toward our effort of a cooperative substation with the town of Linn and possibly Williams Bay, but the savings has now been exhausted by the effort of maintaining our levy," Lauderdale said.

He said the two police officers tentatively agreed to a 0-percent wage increase next year. Some salaries also will be cut.

"The Town Board salaries will be voluntarily reduced by $1,000 each," Lauderdale said. "I believe that the rate for chairman and supervisors has been comparatively higher than surrounding communities. Supervisors had been paid $6,500 annually and the chairman $10,000 annually."

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Also, the town administrator position was cut. "This results in a savings of nearly $29,000," Lauderdale said. "This is yet another cost that will need to be absorbed by the desire not to increase the levy. I am hopeful that this will someday be put back into the budget as I believe that the position is needed and was well justified in the past."

According to Lauderdale, the town also will suspend pursuing the former Como Auto Salvage property on Highway H "in order to realize a savings in engineering fees."

"There are no pending projects planned that will be undergone in 2011 and the (engineering) expenditure was reduced by $25,000," he said.

Other cuts include $2,000 toward annual fish stocking, which Lauderdale said is a temporary cut.

Revenue

The bad news is nearly $120,00 in grant funding likely won't happen.

"In 2010, the town anticipated grant contributions for work done at Como Auto Salvage, lake projects, the new weed harvester, the Schofield boat launch project," Lauderdale said. "This grant funding was nearly $120,000 and there are no anticipated grant funding within the 2011 budget."

But all's not lost yet. The proposed 2011 budget calls for increased boat launch fees.

"They were previously $25 for residents, annual, and will be increase to 10 times the daily rate, or $50 annually," Lauderdale said. "Annual passes for nonresidents will be increased from $35 to $70. As a result, anticipated launch revenue was increased from $6,000 to $10,000."

He also holds out hope for the new water park project at The Lodge at Geneva Ridge, Highway 50, which also will host an event which could be a first for the area. Lauderdale said the water park construction should be completed by May 1.

"This new attraction should generate additional room tax revenue for the town, especially during the off-season months," he said. "There will be a new CAN/AM hockey event taking place in February that could generate additional room tax revenue during the off-season as well."

Lauderdale said there should be no decrease in town services with this proposed budget.

"There is significant building taking place within the town that should generate potential for new growth rate increases for 2012, such as the Lodge at Geneva Ridge water park project, Mercy Medical Center, Zipline Adventure Pak, Handa Mart gas station and other residential developments already underway," he said. "All of this economic development within the town and the subsequent increase in employment base is another accomplishment I am quite proud of."

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