Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

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Town’s rate up in Bloomfield

by Steve Targo

December 06, 2012

Monroe
Editor's Note: This is the final installment of a two-part series on the creation of 2013 budget proposals for the town and village of Bloomfield. Last week, the series kicked off with an article about the challenges officials faced in creating the first new budgets since the village incorporation last year.

BLOOMFIELD — In the pre-incorporation days, experts and officials estimated the town's tax rate would be lower than that of the village.

So how come the recent 2012 tax rates estimates suggest the exact opposite will happen?

The proposed town of Bloomfield rate is $3.23 per $1,000 of equalized value. The proposed village rate is $2.78.

That means the owner of town property worth $200,000 would pay $646 for municipal services. Those who own village property worth $200,000 would pay $556.

So what happened? How did the village stay at the rate the town of Bloomfield had in 2011, pre-incorporation?

During a Nov. 28 interview, Bloomfield Village President Ken Monroe and Cindy Howard, the town clerk and village clerk-treasurer, discussed two reasons and other factors of the proposed village budget. The town and village budget proposals for 2013 will be acted upon at a special Dec. 7 meeting.

Monroe said a crucial change during the incorporation process affected the budgets for both town and village.

Originally, the request to the state was to incorporate a 16-square-mile region of Bloomfield northeast of Highway H. Monroe said the state suggested that incorporation proponents refile their request for a smaller area.

"We downsized the incorporation to satisfy the state of Wisconsin," he said. "We were going to have a larger portion of the town back when we were saying that (the town's rate would be lower)."

The village "ended up losing" land, Monroe said, "and the town ended up gaining."

About four less square miles for the village, but four more for the town. In the end, the town's equalized value for 2012 is $100,295,200. The village's is $332,260,500.

These values decreased in both communities. In 2011, the village's equalized value was $372,623,300. The town's was $110,809,400.

But that's not the main reason for the projected town and village tax rates, according to Monroe and Cindy Howard.

They said it has to do with the cost of fire and rescue services.

Monroe said last year, the town and village of Bloomfield divided the cost of Bloomfield's share of services provided by the Bloomfield-Genoa City Fire and Rescue Department with the village of Genoa City. The town paid $65,426.84.

This year, the town has to pay $111,333.11, in accordance with the department's service agreement.

Monroe said that agreement has formulas which roughly calculate the cost based on municipal populations, equalized value and the department's operating budget.

The town pays about a third on those figures, he said.

This year's budget for the department is $604,057.

But what about the intergovernmental agreement between the village and the town?

That established a cost sharing formula where the town pays about 23 percent for services.

But that's just for police, highway and court services, Monroe said.

Reserve fund saves the day

While town taxpayers face a potential 45-cent rate hike, village officials had to find about $163,000 to balance the 2013 budget.

"We had to use some of our reserve funds. … Usually, every year, we would keep a reserve fund in the budget so we don't have to raise taxes," Monroe said.

Wasn't that reserve fund maintained back when all of Bloomfield was a town?

Yes, Howard said, but the town and the village split Bloomfield's pre-incorporation assets.

Howard said the village had $356,172.73 remaining in its reserve fund.

If the 2013 budget is approved, that fund will have a balance of $103,903.26.

But what if the village needs the same amount it withdrew this year to balance its budget for 2014?

Monroe said he's not concerned.

Why? Monroe said he's optimistic that the economy will pick up next year.

He also has a positive outlook on the future concerning the town's request of the village to annex it, thereby "making us whole," Howard said.

"Hopefully, by 2014, we'll become what we're asking for," Monroe said.