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Tough times mean budget hardships in Bloomfield



Recent Bloomfield, Genoa City, Pell Lake
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Nov 25, 2010
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December 01, 2010 | 08:43 AM
Bloomfield — The town's proposed 2011 budget will increase more than 2 percent and some residents may wonder why.

Anyone will tell them times are tough. Job opportunities are scarce. The price of everything is higher than it's ever been.

So how can town officials expect them to pay more in taxes? Because town government faces the same challenges to provide its people with services ranging from maintaining roads to handling emergencies.

On Monday, Town Clerk Martie Wells said she has an estimated tax rate which so far is up about 3 percent.

"We took that 3 percent as we always do and worked down from there because there just isn't enough money," Wells said.

So far, the estimated tax rate is $2.75 per $1,000 of assessed value. That means the owner of town property worth $200,000 would pay $550 for town services. Taxpayer also pay the state, Walworth County, Gateway Technical College and local school districts.

Last year's town tax rate was $2.62. However, Wells said that was after the school tax credit — a number she doesn't have yet which is used to calculate the final total rate.

How much of a help the school tax credit will be remains to be seen. Meanwhile, Wells said members of the Bloomfield Town Board did what they had to do while creating next year's budget.

"It's a tough time, tough decisions, and people are making tough choices," she said. "I think the board did the best they could making these tough choices."

But it's likely that will be decided Thursday, Dec. 2, at 6 p.m. First, there will be a public hearing on the proposed budget. Following the hearing, the board will conduct a special meeting to adopt it.

Bare bones

According to Wells, despite how some line items appear in the budget summary as recently published, several town departments took a hit — if the proposed 2011 budget is approved as is.

"The Highway Department took an enormous hit," she said. "The Police Department didn't do badly, either. They all gave up just about everything."

Wells said officials usually set money aside to save for future costs to replace equipment. Not in 2011, she said, "which means we're going to have to go another year on the truck." The department also is spending the "bare minimum" on road maintenance again next year.

Wells said part of the problem is the state-imposed levy cap of 3 percent. She said although she's not against it, "it's just unrealistic because the prices have escalated far more than 3 percent."

Wells said the town's union employees took 50 percent of the raises written into their contracts. This means union Police Department employees will see half of the 6-percent raise they expected next year. She said this was agreed upon with the understanding that the rest of that raise money will be paid when said funds are available.

But one way the town saved about $8,000 had more to do with Wells and Police Chief Steve Cole. Wells said Cole and herself decided not to accept a raise.

"For my money, I couldn't go to the (Pell Lake) Post Office every day, see all the families standing in line at the food pantry and take a raise," Wells said.

There also continues to be no more mileage reimbursement for most town officials. Wells said Town Board members previously received $600 a year for reimbursement for mileage to meetings, classes, seminars, workshops and other matters related to town business. The board cut that money for this year's budget and left it out of the proposed 2011 budget.

However, Wells said she will continue to receive mileage reimbursement. She said she began to receive reimbursement at the federal average, which now is 50 cents per mile, two years ago.

"I do most of the running for the town (officials) and it's not a ton of money," Wells said. "I don't charge them to go to the Post Office. If it's 10 miles or more, I'm going to charge for it."

This year, she received $321.95 for mileage reimbursement.

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