Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

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Village tax rate may drop
But Genoa City may have to borrow to cover project costs

by Steve Targo

November 17, 2011

GENOA CITY — Worst case scenario, Village Treasurer Claudia Jurewicz said next year's tax rate will stay around the same as it was this year.

But the absolute best case scenario is it will drop 50 cents, she said during an interview Thursday, Nov. 10, 11 days before the village's public hearing on the proposed 2012 budget.

Overall, the budget which the Village Board may adopt Monday, Nov. 21, may go up less than 1 percent. However, the village tax rate may come in at $8.46 per $1,000 of assessed value. This year, the rate was $8.96. But if the rate decreases as much as Jurewicz's initial estimate, that means the owner of a house worth $200,000 would pay $1,692 in property tax to the village.

The village is one piece of the pie when it comes to paying taxes. Village property owners also pay the state, Walworth County, Gateway Technical College and Brookwood School District.

One of the factors which may increase the tax rate projection is the county budget. Jurewicz said that and the school tax credit are two crucial factors in determining what the tax rate will be.

She said it's safe to assume the rate will be somewhere within that 50-cent margin.

"I don't think it's going to be much, but I don't know what the county budget was like (yet, so) the tax rate is going to be close to last year's or a little less," Jurewicz said. "Probably a little less."

That's the good news. The bad, according to Jurewicz, is the village lost almost $90,000 in financial assistance from state shared revenue and highway aids.

"You can blame the state for that one," she said. "Every municipality is going to have that problem."

But in Genoa City, this means borrowing about $293,000 next year to cover the cost of several necessary projects. Some of these are happening now, such as repairing the fire station. Others are on the horizon, such as conducting a study which could essentially increase village property values that took a hit once FEMA reassessed the area flood plains.

And with voters approving a referendum in April to increase the number of warning sirens in the village, that project also is on the docket for next year.

"We're probably going to have to borrow some money," Jurewicz said. "There's just no way around it."

She said all this and more has made it a challenge to come up with a budget that at worst could maintain last year's village tax rate.

A silver lining is a couple years away. As anyone who follows village politics knows, you can't talk about the budget without bringing up the Tax Incremental Financing district — a tool established to set aside local property tax revenue to fund community improvement projects.

"Now they're telling us we could be closing our TIF district out in 2013," Jurewicz said. "It could be a boost for us, but it doesn't really affect our taxes until 2014. (Closing the TIF) helps the tax rate because we'll have all that revenue coming back to the general village (fund). That's the big thing."

So, right now, she said the village essentially has to just make it through one more year.

"Then, 2014 will be a whole different ball game," Jurewicz said. "I can't wait. Maybe I'll be able to breathe during that budget season."

For now, Jurewicz said she thinks village residents should be happy with this proposed budget. She also discussed some of the bigger areas in the proposed 2012 budget of more than $2.16 million.


Despite a possible tax rate decrease, the proposed budget calls for a more than 5-percent increase in general property tax revenue, from $903,456 to $950,552.

According to Jurewicz, officials opted for the highest property tax revenue increase it could obtain under the state's cap. The village's assessed value also increased more than $2.22 million.

"I think once we figured out what the tax rate was going to be with this levy, it's not going to change the taxes any (to seek the full amount under the revenue cap)," she said. "The rate's going to stay the same."

But is there a chance it wouldn't? Jurewicz said if the county asks for "a boat load of money" in next year's budget or the school tax credit "doesn't come in the way it should." She expects to receive that information prior to Nov. 21.

To compensate for a 32-percent decrease in state aid, which dropped intergovernmental revenue from $307,463 to $209,018 in the proposed 2012 budget, village officials are hoping for a significant increase in money from fines and forfeitures.

That revenue line item is up from $41,000 to $53,000 in the proposed budget.

Court fines increased, Jurewicz said, and the Village Board established a procedure allowing the code enforcement officer to issue citations.


Essentially, one project was put on hold while another is finally going to happen.

It appears village officials will move forward on the tennis court restoration in Veterans Park next year. However, the overlay project on Bonnie Lane and Gregory, Joyce and Ann streets returns to the back burner. Instead, crews patched up those roads.

"That's why general government spending went down," Jurewicz said.

That line item dropped from $366,219 to $279,926.

However, in leisure and culture, there is a proposed increase of more than 43 percent — from $67,043 to $96,044.

That's for the tennis court, which Jurewicz said is one of the projects expected to be paid for by borrowing.

The court has been an ongoing issue which has come up during Village Board meetings for several years. Cheri Borowiec, of the Park Commission, said the court was closed this year because it was deemed unsafe. The concrete surface has split and parts of it have separated.

"We had a team out there and they said it was a hazard for people to play on," Borowiec said.

She said the last time any work was done on the court was about five years ago — when the stripes were repainted, lights reset and drainage work was performed.

"All they ever really did there was repaint it and stripe it. We would fill in the cracks when we did the striping," Borowiec said.

She said the restoration project would change it to a single court.