LA CROSSE, Wisconsin (WXOW) – A small raise for city employees and trying to keep property taxes at a standstill are both highlights of Mayor Tim Kabat's budget proposal unveiled Friday.
While all the details are not yet announced, the Mayor said he's working to "hold the line" when it comes to taxes – a pledge he made when first elected.
"We are seeing job creation, we are seeing investment, but your average family, people in the community are still hurting," the Mayor said. "The economic recovery is taking its slow time."
As long as a resident's property value stays the same as last year, the city portion of taxes will remain the same, Kabat said.
The proposed budget has $71.4 million dollars worth of expenses and $36.7 million in revenue. That leaves a net of $34.7 million dollars levied to the taxpayer.
"Each (budget) seems to become a little more difficult. There are more challenges whether it comes from the federal level, the state level, even the local decisions that have to be made," said Wayne Delagrave, the city's Director of Finance & Purchase/Treasurer.
Delagrave said last year's budget used $90,000 from the city reserve fund. This budget doesn't use any.
"The situation where you start to allocate reserves toward your operating budget, you use it one year, you're going to need to do it again the next year and the year after. And pretty soon you're in this spiral that you can't get out of," he said.
This budget would rely heavily on using sinking funds and carryover funds – funds allocated toward specific projects over the years that, for some reason or another, weren't used.
But these carryover funds are a one-time fix, Delagrave said.
The budget still requires some cutbacks.
Under the Mayor's plan, a few city positions would be cut, and city employees would be paying more for their healthcare. Both are ways to help fill any budget shortfalls.
Some of the budget highlights include Kabat proposing a 3 percent wage increase for city employees. That will match their salary to the police and fire pay raises.
The city and the La Crosse Public Library will also be using some carryover funds to keep the south branch open and address the deficit. But it's only a fix for this coming year.
Kabat will propose his recommendations to the Board of Estimates Monday.
From there, the city council will take up the budget and vote in November.
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