New Street Light Tax, Department Cuts Proposed
MARSHFIELD, WI (OnFocus) – On Tuesday, the City of Marshfield Common Council discussed the 2023 budget and financial challenges facing the City moving forward. The current proposed budget includes a tax increase of about .87% (the maximum allowed, equating to about 9 cents per $1,000 in property tax) and a new Street Light Tax. The discussion addressed ways to make the budget sustainable, which involves approximately $800,000 (about 3.54%) in cuts from the General Fund to balance the budget. Currently, there are no cuts proposed.
Essentially, the City needs to find the $800,000 in cuts to stop drawing from the general fund to balance the budget (which isn’t a sustainable practice) and break even. Additionally, the City is evaluating potential revenue streams (in addition to the approved tax increase) that includes a street light tax.
Wisconsin State Statute requires municipalities to present a balanced budget. As it stands now, for the City to meet this requirement, there must be additional revenue streams created and/or cuts made. Most likely there will need to be a combination, as making cuts only balances the budget and does not secure the City financially in the long term.
The street light tax would involve a $2 additional fee on every utility bill per month. For 2023, that would cover the full cost of the street lighting program.
“It’s meant to offset as much of that charge as possible.” said finance director Jennifer Selenske.
“I’m concerned at this point that we haven’t found those cuts,” said Alderperson Rebecca Spiros. “We can’t keep robbing from Peter to pay Paul. It just can’t continue to happen.”
“Whenever you’re looking at any budget, you either have to come to the table and find new revenue streams or find ways to cut to balance your budget. The problem with government is revenue goes back to the taxpayer,” said Adam Fischer. “That’s concerning to me. Beyond the two revenue streams you’re talking about, we still have that $800,000 hole to plug.”
Fischer also stressed the importance of pushing the State to change the levy limits. “We need to be fighting on behalf of the City and the taxpayer to get more money from the State, “he said.
“One of our big faults is we’ve never been willing to make cuts,” said Alderman Ed Wagner. “What I think should happen in the next week is we should ask for a 4% reduction across the board and basically let the department heads figure out how to do that with their budgets.”
“There seems to be a trend that we take from one fund to pay another fund. I see that trend again this year. Which brings the question: ‘Is this sustainable?'” said Alderperson Natasha Tompkins. “We are already raising taxes…This is going to hurt all of us. At the same time, we can’t keep having budgets that aren’t sustainable.”
Currently to balance the budget, some of the revenue ($435,000) is coming from American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), for which a project list is already approved, and $387,000 is being applied from the General Fund.
“I don’t enjoy the idea of making cuts,” said Fischer. “But if you keep borrowing from the savings account, you have no reserves. Right now, we are taking money from reserves to pay the bills. If you did that in your household eventually you get to a point where you have no money. If we want to get this can down, we can, but it’s going to keep getting worse. I don’t like this, but I personally feel that I was elected to make fiduciary decisions on behalf of the taxpayer. Something has to change.”
“We are strapped. We’re making cuts as a last resort,” said Spiros.
Fischer made a motion to direct staff to find $800,000 worth of cuts. Alderman Mike O’Reilly seconded the motion.
Wagner suggested expressing the cuts as a percentage.
Fischer then amended the motion to direct staff to find 4% worth of cuts. Alderman Wagner seconded the motion. Motion passed 8-2, with Poeschel and Hendler voting No.
The next budget meeting will be Tuesday, November 8 at 5:00pm with the regular Council meeting to follow at 7:00pm.
Watch the meeting here:
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