Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

Now it gets confusing
Town, village still navigating budget

by Steve Targo

November 29, 2012

Editor’s Note: This is the first in a two-part series about the first budgets for the town and village of Bloomfield since last year’s incorporation. An article that delves deeper into the numbers will appear next week.

BLOOMFIELD — When it comes to deciding whether the town and the village are spending money wisely next year, it may be more difficult than usual to see the forest through the trees.

Cindy Howard, the town clerk and village clerk-treasurer, provided preliminary budget worksheets Monday after a special joint meeting of the town and village boards.

There is no easy way to compare this year’s town and village of Bloomfield budgets to the ones proposed for next year. Notices for both budget proposals appear in this week’s Regional News. In Howard’s words, comparing the 2012 budgets to the 2013 proposals would be “comparing apples to oranges.”

The 2012 budget reflects costs and revenues for Bloomfield when it was still one municipality. Because, when officials created this year’s budget, the village of Bloomfield had not yet been created. Although the referendum to incorporate a 12-square-mile region northeast of Highway H was approved by voters in November 2011, the state had not certified it until Dec. 20, 2011. The budget had to be approved prior to that date.

The 2013 proposals are for the budgets of the town and the village as separate municipalities. Both will be discussed and possibly approved at a special meeting Dec. 7.

Separate budgets, yes, but a lot of correlation between the two, Howard said.

“Bottom line, the village will be billing the town 23.3 percent of the 2013 department budgets for police, highway and municipal court,” she stated in an email Monday. “Other expenditures will also be split under general government, such as building expenses, assessor fees, office supplies, leased equipment and postage. These figures will be set upon approval of the budgets.”

As for the town, there’s good news and bad.

Although there’s no projected tax levy increase, there’s a 16.35-percent increase in the fire district levy. The town is expected to pay $111,333.11 for fire and rescue services in 2013. This year, the town paid $65,426.84.

As for the village, Howard predicts a shortfall. She said there is not enough revenue to cover expenses at this point. More on this will appear in next week’s Regional News.

“We did the best we could getting these budgets together,” Howard said. “The village side, unfortunately, doesn’t have any extra revenue. The state wouldn’t give us any room.”

She said there’s also a chance for a shortfall to appear in the town’s proposed 2013 budget of $699,116.16.

On Friday, Nov. 30, town electors will decide at a special 7 p.m. meeting whether the town clerk and treasurer positions should be combined. According to Howard, if the electors who attend the meeting decide against consolidating these positions, there will need to be a salary for the town treasurer.

The 2013 budget proposal for the town does not include one.

“If the town doesn’t go for the proposed change and not support a zero-dollar treasurer’s salary, then there will be a shortfall in the town’s budget for that amount,” Howard said.

Town side

Over the phone Monday, Bloomfield Town Chairman Dan Schoonover said the most significant change — and greatest challenge — was this whole apples-to-oranges thing.

He said the town board had to decide, based on equalized value, what percentage of last year’s town budget applied to the remaining town.

“But even those are just estimates, too,” Schoonover said. “If we have a huge year, say, for snow, we’ll have to change those (budget) numbers again. … All we can do is take what we have and work from there.”

There was an agreement for shared services between the town and the village which Schoonover and Howard said were recently changed by the boards.

After the village was incorporated, the Bloomfields had arranged for the village to pay 76.7 percent of the cost for police, court and highway. The town paid 23.3 percent.

This required Howard to process two sets of bills. Schoonover said that’s why the town and village boards approved switching it so the town pays the village for 23.3 percent of the costs of those services.

“We made the change simply because it made the bookkeeping a lot easier,” he said.

The main challenge for officials, including Howard and Schoonover, has been essentially starting from scratch to come up with these estimates.

However, the town asked the village to annex its lands. A three-day trial is scheduled for that request in February 2013 in Walworth County Circuit Court. The court may decide the annexation request should be put to the town voters for final approval.

This also factored into the budget process. Howard discussed ways she filed and created the budget proposals so that, if the annexation is successful, it would be easier to create the 2014 budget.

Schoonover said he hopes the annexation issue ends next year. He said he hopes it’s a success.

“But if it’s not, at least now we have something we can work from,” Schoonover said about the town budget.