Public Hearing to be Held November 30
OnFocus – At their fourth 2021 Budget Meeting, the City of Marshfield Common Council voted to recommend a 8.1% tax increase for the City of Marshfield taxpayers.
8:10 PM UPDATE: Common Council after voting to increase the city tax rate, Council voted 7 to 3 to amend the tax increase to 7.4%.
At the beginning of the 2021 budget process, Finance Director Ron Aumann recommended an 8% increase to help the City get back on track after years of no increases and other budget practices that led to this problem. City Administrator Steve Barg said that increase amount would be “politically unpalatable,” so discussions began on how to trim the budget.
City staff worked to trim General Fund and other budget expenses, reducing expenses across the board – including areas such as travel, training, and street projects.
“We’ve got a problem here. Much of the work has been done by our City staff to solve that problem,” said Alderman Nick Poeschel. “It’s up to us now to take the difficult step to implement that plan. None of us wants to raise taxes. I think we’ve cut as much as we can cut.”
According to Aumann, a 4.5% increase would be the “tread water” solution and essentially “kicks the can down the road.”
“I’m trying to justify the 4.5% and I’m struggling with it,” said Alderman Tom Buttke, but noted that if other communities are doing it that makes it easier.
“Is it enough? That’s my only concern,” said Alderman Tom Witzel. “Our administrator said keep it conservative. Our finance director said that’s not going to cut it.”
“I can’t support this for the same reason. It’s kicking the can down the road,” said Alderman Ed Wagner. “I’ve watched you guys bleed on this for years and it’s time to end it.”
After more discussion, Alderman Ken Bargender made a motion to approve a 4.5% increase and include recommended cuts from the previous budget meetings. The motion failed 3-7, with Poeschel, Bargender, and Alderman Peter Hendler voting “yes, and Alderman Feirer, Alderman Rosandich, Wagner, Witzel, Fischer, Alderwoman Spiros, and Buttke voting “no.”
“I hate saying this I really do. I don’t know where we went off the tracks, but it’s time to get back on the tracks and start managing it better,” said Wagner.
Asking what would fund the 2021 debt payments, Aumann determined the amount to be about 8.1%.
Rosandich then made a motion for an 8.1% increase that would include the cuts discussed at previous meetings. Feirer seconded the motion. The motion failed 6-4, as Chairman Wagner noted that (as a budget resolution) it needed 7 to pass.
Feirer, Poeschel, Rosandich, Wagner, Witzel, and Hendler voted “Yes.” Bargender, Fischer, Spiros, and Buttke voted “No.”
Discussions then opened up again.
“One thing that has not come up in discussion is we never talk about revenue sources,” said Bargender. “What is available to us as a City to increase our revenue?…Maybe enacting a wheel tax in the future. That might be something else. I don’t know all the chances we have at gaining revenue sources.”
The meeting then took a recess to determine whether the second motion had actually passed. Budget resolutions require a majority of 7 to pass, but as this motion was not being forwarded to the Finance, Budget, and Personnel Committee, it was unclear if that meant it passed or not. During the recess, the City Clerk determined the motion had indeed passed.
“What we were doing is making changes to a proposed budget,” said Wagner. “That requires only a majority vote…therefore the chair reverses the ruling and the motion made by Rosandich.”
That motion was to recommend an 8.1% increase with all the recommended changes from the last two meetings. That motion therefore passed 6-4.
Currently, taxpayers pay $954 for every $100,000 of their property’s value in the City portion of their tax bill. With this increase, taxpayers will now pay roughly $1031 for every $100,000 of property value. (EDITOR’S NOTE: Rough ballpark calculation, only. Aumann is working to outline the exact data.)
During the recess, Finance Director Ron Aumann calculated 7.4% as the amount to fund the debt payments. The 8.1% will now also alleviate some of the General Fund deficit.
The formal publication of the budget motion passed 7-3, with Bargender, Fischer, and Spiros voting “No.” Bargender also abstained from voting yes or no to the approval of the public hearing time and date.
Wagner addressed the Council at the meeting’s end.
“I think it’s best for the City. I think it’s what we have to do. If we’re looking out for the future of the City, this is what we have to do. I want to thank you all for your input and patience tonight,” he said.
Buttke asked for clarification on why they had to raise the amount the level that was recommended.
Aumann will put together a brief summary with bullet points on why the decision was made.
Members of the public are invited to attend a Public Hearing for the 2021 budget on Monday, November 30. The hearing is scheduled to take place at 6:00pm (after the Board of Public Works meeting). Anyone wishing to address the Council is also invited to do so at this time.
For more information about the City budget or public hearing, visit the City website at ci.marshfield.wi.us.
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