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Falls village budget, levy increase slightly

Increases projected for public safety, recreation departments

Oct. 22, 2012

Menomonee Falls - "This is not a sleepy bedroom community."

Village Manager Mark Fitzgerald made this statement last week while providing details of Menomonee Falls' preliminary 2013 budget that includes $25.8 million in general operating funds and a 0.95 percent increase in the property tax levy.

There are not any significant changes to the upcoming budget, in year-to-year comparisons. But Fitzgerald said the goal is to continue providing quality services to the village's residents and workers amid ongoing fiscal restraints.

"We have more jobs, per capita, than almost any other municipality in the area," Fitzgerald said.

Under new state statutes, municipalities can only raise a levy equal to the rate of new construction. Fitzgerald said the village's projected $21,915,109 levy - a $205,589, or 0.947 percent, rise from last year's levy of $21,709,520 - is borne out of a calculation that takes this year's development into account.

"This should be a rather consistent budget for citizens and all other taxpayers," Fitzgerald said. "We're pretty pleased with where we're at."

The tax rate is expected to increase slightly - good news for a community that experienced two consecutive years of declines. Last year's rate was $5.195 per $1,000 of assessed value; the 2012 rate has tentatively been set at $5.198 per $1,000 of assessed value.

Fitzgerald is proposing a general operating budget that reflects a 0.9 percent increase in spending. While several areas of the budget - including public works and development - are expected to dip slightly from 2012 levels, the village is planning to increase spending in the public safety and recreation departments.

This year, the village employed 190 people. Fitzgerald said he expects 2013 staffing levels to be at 180 people.

During his presentation last week, Fitzgerald also highlighted some of the components of village spending outside the general operating budget. The water utility remains a self-sustaining service with revenue expected to rise and expenses expected to fall in 2013.

The utility's net assets in 2012 were slightly more than $55 million. Fitzgerald said he projects the utility's assets in 2013 totaling $55.34 million.

"I'm fairly pleased," Fitzgerald said. "This is a good situation to be in."

Sewer utility running at a loss

The sanitary sewer utility, however, has been operating on a loss - a scenario Fitzgerald said he attributes to stalled growth in the community.

The utility's 2012 budget was in the red by nearly $1.5 million, and the 2013 budget is expected to be in the red by about $1.2 million. Reserve funds have been covering the shortfall.

Fitzgerald discussed the village's constant need to maintain a balancing act between revenues and expenses.

"We might have to redefine our core, but if we cut spending below where we are today, it's going to be difficult," he said. "We can realign and redefine, but I can't see too many more cuts."

Trustee Michael McDonald said the village might need to consider outside-the-box strategies in seeking additional income.

"Our business community is vibrant," McDonald said. He suggested looking into an initiative that would give businesses an opportunity to pay a fee for naming rights on some village amenities.

The Village Board is scheduled to hold a public hearing Nov. 19. Officials are expected to vote on the budget and levy immediately after the hearing.

AT A GLANCE

WHO:Menomonee Falls Village Board

WHAT: public hearing on proposed 2013 budget, tax levy

WHERE: Village Hall, N8480 Pilgrim Road

WHEN: 6:30 p.m. Nov. 19

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