GENOA CITY — On Nov. 22, the village board knocked almost a buck off the local tax rate.
The board adopted a 2014 budget after a public hearing which sets the village rate at $8.67 per $1,000 of assessed value.
That means the owner of $200,000 property in Genoa City will pay $1,734 to the village, which is just one portion of the total tax bill. In Genoa City, those who receive a tax bill also pay the state, Walworth or Kenosha counties, Gateway Technical College and other local school districts.
This year’s village tax rate was $9.66, said village president Bill Antti in a Nov. 26 phone interview.
One major cause of the decrease is the village closing out its Tax Incremental Financing district, or TID, which was established in 1997. Property tax revenue in the TID could only be used to pay off debt incurred to implement community improvement projects — water, sewer and road construction in Genoa City.
About 44 percent of village property was in the TID.
Several village board members, past and present, have attributed this as a key factor in why the local tax rate was so high.
In September, the predictions were that the TID closure could cause the village rate to drop by $2.54 to $3.44, without any additional expenditures. But previously, board members — including Antti — discussed using this opportunity to implement some projects that later could cause a tax rate increase.
So, why did the rate drop just 99 cents?
“We’re doing more road repairs than we anticipated,” he said Nov. 26. “I was looking at about a half-million dollars for road repairs, but we decided to go for $1.5 million.”
Recently, the board borrowed a total of $3 million — $1.5 million for road repairs, $1.5 million to address the village hall dilemma. The loans are why miscellaneous revenue increased from $796,175 to $3.159 million in the 2014 budget.
Antti said several village roads need repair, including parts of First, Grove, Main, Wisconsin and Park streets.
With the village hall, concerns ranging from asbestos and mold problems and roof leaks to the building not being up to code prompted the board to borrow the money.
Some board members believed they could avoid a future tax rate increase by borrowing the money now, even though the board has not decided how to go about addressing the village hall problems. On Nov. 19, Antti said discussions on how to use that money should begin in January.
On Nov. 26, he said the village needs to do the village hall and road projects.
“It’s nice to be able to do a tax cut and still be able to do these projects,” Antti said.
Dire financial straits?
On Nov. 22, the board approved the 2014 budget on a 6-1 vote, with Trustee Alan Cornue against it.
In a Nov. 27 phone interview, Cornue said he voted no to express his dissatisfaction with the amount of money the village is spending.
“I was disappointed that they aren’t biting the bullet and getting serious about getting the budget into shape,” he said.
Cornue said he prompted the board to cut more than $130,000 from the budget for village employee health insurance plans.
Antti said the cut — from about $350,000 to $210,000 — was made prior to the budget summary being published earlier in November.
He said the board dropped an insurance company which raised the cost of the plans almost 16 percent, so they selected a different insurance provider to keep costs down.
Cornue said the old plans were more than $25,000, on average, for each full-time village employee. “That, to me, was just absolutely ridiculous.” Now it’s down to about $15,000 per full-timer, Cornue said.
He also said the village has been “deficit spending for a number of years,” because of the TID. “They’ve got a pile of debt that needs to be dealt with.”
Budget up 123 percent
Antti said the published budget summary is what the board approved Nov. 22.
That budget increased more than 123 percent — from $2.355 to $5.267 million.
General property taxes increased 62 percent, from $919,513 to $1.489 million.