Baraboo budget reduces tax rate

November 19, 2018

Baraboo’s Common Council signed off Tuesday on a 2019 budget that slightly reduces the city tax rate and calls for no new borrowing. After an 8-0 vote, the $18 million spending plan will come before the council for final approval at its next meeting.

Under the proposed budget, the city tax rate would drop to $11.10 per $1,000 in property value, down from $11.14 this year. Owners of $150,000 homes would pay $1,665 in city taxes. The tax levy would shrink slightly to $8.5 million.

“I think that’s commendable,” Mayor Mike Palm said.

The budget is based on operational costs rising 1 percent and wages rising 2 percent. Water and sewer rates wouldn’t change. The city’s contributions to employees’ health insurance costs would decrease 3.6 percent without any reductions in coverage.

A 4 percent increase in land value and 1.3 percent growth in new construction helped the city balance its budget.

“We’re kind of almost back where we were in 2008,” Baraboo Finance Director Cynthia Haggard said.

About $666,000 in money from the city fund balance would be used to make ends meet. Still, the city would retain a fund balance equal to 25 percent of its total budget.

“This is definitely an indicator how healthy the city is,” Haggard said.

The budget would maintain current service levels, placing a priority on road work. The city borrowed money to tackle a long list of overdue street projects this year, but heavy rains limited progress. Some projects have been pushed into 2019.

The budget calls for no new borrowing, but next year the city will begin planning for a new fire station to be occupied by the Fire Department and Baraboo District Ambulance Service. Meanwhile, Baraboo Public Library leaders are planning for an expansion of their Fourth Avenue facility. The budget includes $858,000 for architectural design.

The only new staff positions proposed are a part-time page for the library and a full-time training officer for the Fire Department. Fire Chief Kevin Stieve said this officer could lead training outside the department’s traditional monthly Monday night sessions. This could help the department recruit firefighters who aren’t free Monday nights.

At the same time, this officer could respond to daytime calls and potentially succeed the chief once he retires. The position would pay $70,000 (costing the city $101,000 including benefits) but could save the city $30,000 by responding to daytime calls instead of a paid-by-the-call volunteer.

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