Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

The trend continues
Linn keeps tax rate at $1.29

by Steve Targo

December 06, 2012

LINN — “I think it needs to be noted that the town has maintained the same rate since 2010,” Town Chairman Jim Weiss said over the phone Nov. 29.

By rate, he meant tax rate, which once again will be at $1.29 per $1,000 of equalized value.

And once again, the owner of town property worth $200,000 will pay $258 for services.

So it’s understandable when Weiss reported that the 2013 budget proposal was approved unanimously during a special Nov. 26 meeting.

But it begs the question, in today’s economy, how was it officials — for the third consecutive year— found a way to maintain that rate?

“No. 1, we’re blessed in that we don’t have any debt service,” Weiss said. “No. 2, it’s a large tax base with an (equalized) value that went down by almost $20 million.”

He said the estimated 2012 value of Linn is $1.664 billion, which amounts to a 1.18-percent decrease.

Which could translate into some good news come tax time.

“A number of people in the town of Linn should see a tax decrease in the line item for the town of Linn on their tax bill,” Weiss said.

It appears town officials also kept spending low.

The 2013 budget is $3,121,857 — more than $500,000 less than this year’s, which was $3,645,556.

“Yes, it is a $500,000 reduction if you only look at those two numbers,” Weiss said.

He added that’s because officials took a project off the table.

Weiss said officials budgeted last year to build a new building for the town’s highway department.

He said the board decided not to move forward with that project.

“That was about a $500,000 project,” he said. “But since that didn’t happen, (the town’s) budget is pretty well flat from there.”

Weiss said there are no large equipment purchases scheduled for next year, and the town put away $315,000 in its reserve fund.

Other budget factors

Some of the items earmarked under the expenditures side of the 2013 budget involve fire and rescue coverage, human resources and something called an “interim market review.”

That last item is the one with the largest price tag.

Weiss said it will cost $111,900 for Associated Appraisal Consultants to conduct a study similar in definition to a town revaluation.

In fact, he called it a “mini-revaluation.”

The review will be to “update all assessed values at the same time, under the same market conditions, in order to ensure a fair and equitable distribution of property taxes,” he said. It will be done at about a third of the cost of a revaluation, he said.

“We have historically done (a revaluation) every five years, but you’re required to do it every 10 years, unless you’ve fallen out of the parameters set by the state,” Weiss said. “We haven’t fallen out.”

So why do it? Weiss said because of the housing market, which “went south” after 2000.

More about this project will appear in a future Regional News.

Weiss said the town also placed $12,000 into the budget for “human resource consulting.”

“The intent there is to work with a company … to rewrite and update our town handbook, as well as job descriptions for all town employees,” he said.

The company in mind for the job is ADP, or Automated Data Processing.

Weiss said the reason is to improve the town’s “business practice.”

Currently, several staff members are longtime employees of the town.

“If any of these employees decide to leave, they know what they’re duties are,” Weiss said. “But do we?”

Weiss said $10,000 was put into a “fire/EMS contingency” for the purpose of investigating ways to improve coverage.

This was prompted by an issue which drew attention earlier this year.

Some are concerned with improving response times to the north shore region of Linn.

Geneva Lake actually cuts the town into two regions. Fire, rescue and police departments are headquartered in the south shore area.

To reach the north shore, emergency personnel have to travel around the lake. However, Linn has a contract with the village of Williams Bay to respond to north shore calls.

There has been talk about initiating some sort of discussion with officials from the village of Williams Bay and the town of Geneva.

See a future Regional News for more on that issue.