Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

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A deeper look at town’s proposed budget
Despite tax increase, most spending areas drop

by Steve Targo

December 01, 2011

GENEVA — Town Clerk-Treasurer Deb Kirch said Nov. 21 she thinks people's main concern over the proposed 2012 budget will be whether officials were frugal enough.

But what could have possibly been the biggest discussion point at the public budget hearing Monday, Dec. 5, is no longer a hot topic.

Kirch said a major project which became one of last year's most talked-about issues is now officially off the table.

"I know they're not looking at building a new Town Hall anymore," she said. "That seemed to be the big thing with people."

The main factor of the budget — what is used to calculate every town property owner's bottom line — is the tax rate. If the proposed 2012 town budget is approved, that rate will jump up 2 cents, to $1.97.

That would mean the owner of a property valued at $200,000 would pay $394 for town services, but the town's just one piece of the pie. Town residents also pay taxes to the state, Walworth County, Gateway Technical College and local school districts.

On the revenue side of the proposed 2012 town budget, general property tax revenue increased more than 0.3 percent, to $1.73 million. The total proposed budget is more than $2.78 million.

Kirch said Town Board members opted to seek the maximum revenue increase as allowed by the state in lieu of state aid reductions and other anticipated revenue decreases.

Intergovernmental revenues, which include state shared revenue and transportation aid, went down from $338,536 to $287,104. Revenue from fines and forfeitures was budgeted this year at $187,205, but it came in at $150,000. Kirch said that's why the proposed 2012 budget also lists this revenue area at $150,000.

"Mostly, our shared revenue and transportation aid went down," she said. "That's aid we receive from the state (and) we're going to be a lot lower in our fines and forfeitures revenue than we were in last year's budget. So, the property tax levy, on the revenue side, it is what it is."

But is it enough?

"You don't want to over-inflate your numbers and think you're going to be getting more," Kirch said. "We didn't want to use numbers we can't reach. We'd rather be conservative."

Cutting back

Cutting back has been the goal for town officials such as Supervisor Larry Kulik, who last week explained why he sought a larger decrease from the Geneva Town Municipal Court budget than other town departments. Kirch said although public works expenditures increased almost $1,000, most areas dropped on this side of the proposed 2012 budget.

Public safety, which includes the Town Police Department budget, went down from more than $1.04 million to $956,465. General government dropped from $416,835 to $400,859. Culture, recreation and education — which includes the Town Park Commission — decreased from $13,950 to $8,500.

The commission's budget alone was chopped to one-third of what it was this year. It dropped from $6,000 to $2,000.

"Everybody cut back what they could," Kirch said. "I think everybody spent more time putting together numbers that reflect their actual expenses."

The total expenditures in areas including town departments, recreation, conservation and development is down to more than $2.6 million. This year, it was more than $2.74. However, the town is putting $185,156 into a nonlapsing fund. Kirch said the fund is for larger-expense items. That way, paying for squad cars, plow trucks — or a weed harvester, such as what the town bought this year — doesn't have to impact the budget directly.

"You expect to save as much of that fund as you can," Kirch said. "But if something goes, you have to fix it. In a way, this is kind of like your rainy day fund."

When all is said and done, the town's proposed 2012 budget has a small tax rate increase and several cuts. But Kirch said it may not be enough for some people. She said they may think more needs to be chopped.

But there's a downside to just cutting and cutting.

"We were kind of worried about cutting it any more," Kirch said. "If we do, that money will be gone forever. The way the state's levy limits are structured, it doesn't sit on the side (until) we need it."